on Forbes.com

A new Unite NY/John Zogby Strategies Poll shows New York Governor Kathy Hochul with commanding leads against challengers in both a Democratic primary and general election.


The new poll of 1,003 likely voters statewide was commissioned by Unite NY, a statewide group advocating electoral reforms and conducted by John Zogby Strategies on March 3, a national polling firm located in Upstate New York.


Among Democratic primary voters (431 likely voters, margin of sampling error +/-4.8), Hochul holds a commanding lead with 57% of the vote. Her two opponents – Tom Suozzi from Long Island and Jumaane Williams from NYC, barely register with 16% and 14% respectively. One in eight are still undecided. Nearly 6 in 10 voters for the incumbent is pretty solid. This is still a honeymoon period for the Governor and the Andrew Cuomo era is fading into the past. The former Governor is running ads declaring his innocence and trashing the justice system, but it is hard to link the incumbent with him. Hochul has already set out on her own path. In the Democratic primary, both Suozzi and Williams will have to be very careful about attacks on Hochul that could hurt the party’s efforts in November. She draws majority support among most demographic groups and at least 45% support among all groups. Under no group do the combined votes for her opponents come close to matching her support. A bloody internal fight is risky for the party and for the futures of Suozzi and Williams.


Among Republican primary voters (266 likely voters, margin of sampling error +/-6.1), there appears to be a real horse race among Congressman Lee Zeldin, businessman and former aide to President Donald Trump Andrew Giuliani, and former gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino. The entire poll was conducted the day after Zeldin accepted the party’s designation as nominee at the state GOP Convention. However, while he and Giuliani were locked in a virtual tie with 28% for Zeldin and 26% for Giuliani in January, Giuliani now has opened an 8-point lead 31%-23% over Zeldin, with Astorino picking up 8 points and now at 21%. The state GOP today may be emulating the state Democratic party of the 1970s-1990s whereby the convention choice does not win the nomination. Zeldin’s numbers dropped 5 points from January but Giuliani’s have grown by 3 points, as have Astorino’s by 8 points. It is not insignificant that an unknown sheriff in one of the state’s smallest counties , Mike Carpinelli, is polling at 9% — twice as much as Harry Wilson who is on his way toward spending about $12 million of his own money on media. Giuliani shows strength in Upstate and NYC, while he stays competitive with Astorino and Zeldin in New York City’s suburbs. He leads among all age groups and among both conservatives and self-identified “very conservative” voters. Giuliani and Carpinelli combine for 40% of the vote.


In general election matchups, Hochul leads Zeldin 50%-35% to 15% undecided;  she is ahead of Giuliani 52% to 33%, with 15% undecided; and holds a 15-point edge, 49%-34% over Astorino, with 16% undecided. While the leads are significant and she hovers around the majority mark, the general election is not quite a done deal.


Against Zeldin, Hochul is tied among independents with 36% each while a huge 28% are undecided. Her lead in Upstate is a statistically insignificant 3 points (44% to 41%), as well as in the suburbs where she leads 45% to 41%. Her lead among Hispanics is 52% to 35%, with 13% undecided. Among blacks, she is only posting 69% to Zeldin’s 12% — with a huge 19% undecided. She leads Giuliani by 19 points – 52%-33% — but against Astorino, she actually trails him by 1 point Upstate (43%-42%, 15% undecided), while the Republican gets 36% of Hispanics and 16% among blacks. The lower-than-expected support among blacks for Hochul is somewhat reminiscent of what we were seeing in 1994 when about one in five blacks were “undecided” about Mario Cuomo’s running for a fourth term. It was clear that they were not going to support George Pataki, hence it looked like they were opting to not vote, which is precisely what happened.


Despite her wide lead against Republican candidates, she needs to worry the 39% of New York voters who told the Unite NY/John Zogby Strategies pollsters that they are considering or have made plans to leave New York (up from 34% in January) and the 47% who say that the state is headed in the wrong direction.


The GOP has to worry about a party split. Giuliani is potentially a volatile and divisive figure and his ties to former President Donald Trump will prove to be controversial. It may be enough for him to win the nomination, but he could lose badly in a general election. He can make life very difficult for either Zeldin or Astorino.


On the Democratic side, Hochul should be able to dispose of both Suozzi and Williams. It is less likely that the party will be seriously split between progressives and establishment. Efforts to link her to former Governor Cuomo may prove to be a waste of time – unless voters are just too tired of 18 years of Democratic control. But she does have to be concerned about Republican gains among Hispanics and blacks. With independents, these could be handed to her if the GOP veers too far to the right. In short, Hochul looks good today, but the election is in November.


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