Tale Of Two Frontrunners: Hochul Sails In Siena Poll; GOP Candidate Largely Unknown

New York governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to combat the opioid crisis, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Gov. Kathy Hochul has fared well in a second major statewide poll. The same can’t be said for the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate.

In one potential five-way primary, Hochul leads with 31%, followed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 17%; Attorney General Letitia James, 14%, New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams, 7%; and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, 6%. With Cuomo excluded, Hochul gets 39%, James 20%, de Blasio 10%, and Williams 8%. In a head-to-head match-up, Hochul leads James 47-31%.

“Predicting June’s Democratic gubernatorial ballot 36 weeks from primary day, four months before a state party convention with only Hochul declared is not for the faint hearted. That said, Siena presented Democrats with three potential primary matchups and in each case, Hochul leads by double digits. But let’s repeat, we are 36 weeks away with an unknown field, and most potential candidates being, like Hochul, largely unknown to a wide swath of voters,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

On the flip side, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin is having a hard time getting New York residents to remember his name. Among poll respondents, 17% said they have a favorable opinion of Zeldin, 19% said they have an unfavorable opinion of Zeldin and 64% said they don’t know Zeldin or have no opinion. Among Republicans, 61% still said they don’t know or have no opinion of Zeldin.

Zeldin’s issues are particularly striking upstate, where 76% of Republicans said they don’t know or don’t have an opinion on him. The only group where Zeldin has name recognition is among those earning over $100,000 a year, and even 50% of that group said they don’t know or don’t have an opinion on Zeldin.

Zeldin has made stops in all 62 counties in New York since beginning his campaign for governor while garnering the endorsements of many Republican politicians. As a member of the state Senate, Zeldin led efforts to repeal the Saltwater Fishing License Fee and create the PFC Joseph Dwyer Program, a statewide program in New York to help returning veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Zeldin also wrote the law that protects fallen veterans and their families from protests at military burials. He was elected to Congress in 2014.

While the majority of Republicans don’t have an opinion on Zeldin, it doesn’t mean they approve of the job Hochul is doing as governor. The governor received 59% support from Democratic poll respondents asked to rate the job Hochul has done as governor, but approval of her work as governor slipped to 45% among all poll respondents, 25% among Republican respondents and 30% among independents.

Republicans and independents particularly disagreed with Hochul’s work with the pandemic, addressing issues important to them, strengthening the state’s economy and cleaning up corruption in Albany. Democrats tended to give Hochul good marks on those topics, though her approval rating was less than 50% when Democrats were asked if Hochul is addressing issues important to them (46%), if Hochul was strengthening the state’s economy (42%) and cleaning up corruption in Albany (38%).

“Voters — particularly Republicans and independents — are not cutting the new governor much slack in judging her early performance. Independents are nearly two-to-one negative and Republicans rate her even more negatively than that,” Greenberg said. “On specific issues, Republicans and independents rate her negatively on all. Democrats give her positive grades for the pandemic, handling natural disasters and addressing issues important to them, and virtual break-even grades on the economy and cleaning up corruption.”

Other notes from the Siena poll include:

¯ Former President Donald Trump has long been the politician with the lowest favorability rating among New York voters. No more. Trump has a 37-59% favorability rating, net 22 points negative. Cuomo is 33-60%, net 27 points negative. And de Blasio is 25-56%, net 31 points negative.

¯ In July 2012, 63 percent of New Yorkers – including 71 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independent and 52 percent of Republicans – had a favorable view of the United States Supreme Court. Today, only 51 percent have a favorable view of the Court. While nearly two-thirds of Republicans (65 percent) view the Court favorably, only pluralities of 47 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents do so.

¯ President Joe Biden has a 51-44% favorability rating, down from 57-37% last month and 63-34% in June. His job performance rating is 40-58%t, down from last month’s 46-52% and June’s 52-46%.

¯ New York’s best days are ahead of us, not behind us, voters still say. Currently, voters say New York’s best days lie ahead 50-26%, down a little from 57-26%t last month.

¯ New Yorkers aren’t placing much importance on setting up the state’s retail marijuana sasles system. The issue was ranked as very important by only 28% of poll respondents and somewhat important by 27% of respondents. The issue was more important to those who identified as liberal (44%) and ranked not at all important by those identified as conservative (35%).


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