New poll gives Hochul 17-point edge in New York governor’s race, but Zeldin clings to belief that race is much closer

Governor Kathy Hochul (left) and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Photo courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul and Zeldin for New York

Governor Kathy Hochul appears to be cruising toward gaining her first elected term in office, according to a new Siena College poll, but her Republican rival Lee Zeldin said he’s rejecting those numbers and substituting them with those that put him in a stronger position.

The new survey has Hochul, a Democrat, beating Zeldin by 17 percentage points – 54 to 37% – six weeks before the Nov. 8 general election for the Governor’s Mansion. Hochul built on her lead over Zeldin. a Suffolk County congress member, in the new poll from Siena’s last survey in August, which had her up by 15 points – 53-39%.

Although Zeldin’s campaign didn’t respond to PoliticsNY’s request for comment, he dismissed the Siena poll as rubbish during an unrelated press conference in Astoria, Queens Tuesday morning. When asked about it by CBS-2 New York’s Marcia Kramer, he signaled that he would rather believe that the race is much closer than Siena and several other polls have indicated.

Zeldin appears to be hanging these hopes upon a poll released at the start of September by the right-leaning Trafalgar group, which showed Hochul at under 50% and leading by just four points.

“I don’t know if you have any pets, Marcia, and if they’re potty-trained, but the Siena poll would be good for that purpose,” Zeldin said. “It could go into the fireplace, it is just not accurate.”

Without offering much evidence, he insisted that the governor’s race is actually in the single, rather than double digits.

“Kathy Hochul is losing ground all over this state,” Zeldin said. “There have been multiple polls that have been released publicly that have this as a 4 to 6 point race in September. There have been multiple other polls that have not been released publicly showing the same. Any attempt by anyone to try to make this out to be a 15-point gap, a 30-point gap – ‘it’s a 70-point gap between Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin’ – the reality is that right now it’s about a handful of points that separate us.”

The poll, conducted between Sept. 16 and 25, spoke to 655 likely New York State voters via phone and had a plus 3.9% margin of error.

Six of the eight polls of New York’s gubernatorial race taken since mid-June have had Hochul winning by double-digits. Real Clear Politics has her average poll lead at 12.4%. The Trafalgar poll and a survey from the right-leaning pollsters at co/efficient were the only polls that had Hochul and Zeldin within less than 10 points of each other.

Schumer, downballot Dems also leading big

The other three Democrat incumbents also have a significant edge over their GOP rivals, the poll found. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer leads Joe Pinion by 19%, state Attorney General Letitia James is up by 16% over Michael Henry and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is leaving Paul Rodriguez in the dust with a 23% advantage.

In a release for the poll, Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said little has changed in the nearly two months since their last poll, with the four statewide Democrats on average building upon their August leads.

“In the eight weeks since the last Siena poll, little has changed in the overall dynamic of the gubernatorial or any of the statewide races,” Greenberg said. “The four Democratic incumbents had leads between 14 and 21 points over their Republican challengers in August, and now have leads of between 16 and 23 points.”

“Now, with fewer than six weeks until Election Day, those Republican challengers – underfunded compared to the Democrats – have their work cut out for them in a state with more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, more independents than registered Republicans, and where the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election in 20 years,” he added.

Hochul’s campaign declined to comment on the poll, as has been its practice with public polls thus far.

Zeldin loses ground with Republicans, independents

Zeldin also lost some ground with Republicans, the poll found, with 77% support down from 84% in August. 

The survey did, however, yield some good news for the Long Island rep. Zeldin has a narrow two-point advantage with Independent voters – 45 to 42%. But, Greenberg said, Zeldin would need to pick up many more Independents and solidify his GOP support in order to have a shot at closing the 17-point gap.

“Zeldin’s narrow lead among independents is both good – it’s a lead – and bad – it’s narrow,” Greenberg said. “To close or even narrow a 17-point gap, he would need to win a far greater share of independents, solidify Republican support, as well as pick off some more Democrats.”

The governor continues to have New York City voters locked down with 70% support, according to the poll, compared to Zeldin’s 20%. She also made gains in the city suburbs, gaining a five-point edge over Zeldin since August, when she trailed him in Westchester and Long Island by two points in August.

Hochul is also doing quite well with women, Latino and Black voters, the survey found.

“Not surprisingly, Hochul dominates in New York City, leads by five points in the downstate suburbs, after trailing there by three points in August, while upstaters break virtually even,” Greenberg said. “Hochul has a commanding two-to-one lead, 61-29% with women, and has a narrow 48-44% lead with men. White voters side with Hochul by 10 points, Latinos by 25 points and Blacks by 68 points.”