Dueling polls tell different stories about the size of Hochul’s lead over Zeldin

Governor Kathy Hochul (right) and Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Photos courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul and Zeldin campaign

What’s the current state of New York’s governor’s race three weeks out from the Nov. 8 election? It depends on who you ask.

A pair of public polls from Siena College and Quinnipiac University released Tuesday tell very different stories of where the governor’s race, between incumbent Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk County), currently stands. Hochul is vying for her first full term in the Governor’s Mansion, while Zeldin seeks to unseat her.

The Siena poll released earlier Tuesday gave Hochul an 11 point lead over her GOP rival, 52 to 41%, which is down from the 17 point advantage a separate Siena survey gave her just last month. According to the Quinnipiac poll, revealed later on Tuesday, however, the race is much tighter, with Hochul only holding a slim 4 point edge over Zeldin – 50 to 46%.

In a statement responding to the two polls, Hochul campaign spokesperson Jerrel Harvey maintained the governor still has a double-digit lead, appearing to question the results of the Quinnipiac survey, which he said “substantially undercounted Democrats.”

Governor Kathy Hochul calls Rep. Lee Zledin a co-conspirator in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol while speaking to reporters. Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

“Despite $8 million in outside spending from right-wing groups pushing baseless lies, Governor Hochul maintains a double-digit lead against her opponent,” Harvey said. “Even in today’s Quinnipiac poll, which substantially undercounted Democrats, Governor Hochul continues to receive support from fifty percent of New Yorkers and we are confident in our ability to turn out voters in every community. With just three weeks until Election Day, the governor isn’t taking anything for granted and will continue to contrast her strong record of results with Lee Zeldin’s MAGA agenda.” 

Quinipiac put the number of likely Democrat voters in New York at 39%, with Republicans at 24% and Independnets at 31%. In contrast, the Siena poll found Democrats make up 47% of likely voters in the state, while Republicans account for 31% and Independents for 17%.

Despite the conflicting polls, Zeldin took a victory lap in an emailed statement to PoliticsNY Tuesday, saying his gains reflected in the new polls show his campaign message – primarily focussed on reducing crime – is resonating with voters.  

“We’ve consistently been gaining massive ground on Hochul as New Yorkers witness first hand her abysmal record on the issues more important to them – crime, the economy, corruption and more,” Zeldin said. “The polls have continued to show that our message is resonating, and on Tuesday, Nov. 8th, they’re going to elect a new governor to save our state and restore New York to glory.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin.Photo courtesy of Zeldin for New York

Siena College Pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement that while Zeldin has gained on Hochul over the past three weeks, she still holds the upper hand going into the final leg of the race, mostly based on her strong lead with Sienna’s count of likely Democrat voters – which came in at 84 to 10%.

“Over the last three weeks, Zeldin has narrowed the deficit he must overcome from 17 points to 11 points in trying to become the first Republican in 20 years to win statewide,” Greenberg said. “However, with three weeks to go, Hochul maintains the upper hand, based on the 84 to 10% support she gets from Democrats, who represent half of the state’s enrolled voters.”

But, Greenberg said, Zeldin has been able to bolster his Republican support, boosting it from 77 to 81%, and increased his popularity with Independents from 3 to 9 points.

Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow said that while the deep blue state of New York hasn’t elected a Republican since former Governor George Pataki last won in 2002, Hochul’s narrow lead in their poll could give Zeldin the edge he needs to overtake her.

“In the blue state of New York, the race for governor is competitive,” Snow said. “Democrats have cruised to victory in gubernatorial races since 2006, but Governor Hochul’s narrow edge puts Republican Lee Zeldin well within striking distance of her.”