Despite its deserved reputation as a Democratic bastion, New York state is beginning to feel uneasy about President Joe Biden, according to two new polls. Both find views of the president are closely divided and Democrats’ advantage in the state is lower than in prior elections.
The first poll, taken by Siena College, found that likely New York voters were split evenly on their views of Biden. Forty-eight percent said that they have a favorable view of the president, while 48 percent said they have an unfavorable view of him. The second poll from Emerson College found a slightly more rosy picture for the president, with a 49 percent plurality of likely voters viewing him positively and 46 percent viewing him negatively.
Views of how Biden is handling his job were rather similar, with only 47 percent of voters approving and a 51 percent majority disapproving in Siena’s poll. New York was one of Biden’s best states in the 2020 election, giving him over 60 percent support and a raw margin of over one million votes. Emerson similarly found a close split, with 52 percent of respondents approving Biden’s handling of his job and 48 percent disapproving.
The poll also found smaller than usual leads for New York’s Democrats, although they fared significantly better than Biden. Siena found Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul leading Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin by 14 points, 53 percent to 39 percent. Hochul was buoyed by support from seven in 10 New York City voters, while Zeldin posted a more modest three percentage point lead from upstate and in suburban areas. According to Politico, Hochul’s advantage is “not insurmountable” and is actually the third best result a Republican gubernatorial challenger has had in a poll since 2002, when Republican Gov. George Pataki last ran for reelection.
While Democrats have won every gubernatorial race since Pataki left office, Siena College pollster Steven Greenburg said that “Zeldin’s current 14-point deficit matches the closest Republicans have come in those races, when Andrew Cuomo defeated Rob Astorino 54-40% in 2014. In August 2014, Cuomo led Astorino by 32 points, 58-26%.” For its part, Emerson College’s survey found Hochul with 51 percent support and Zeldin with 35 percent support, a lead of 16 percentage points for Hochul.
Zeldin has criticized Hochul’s policies on COVID-19 and crime. In a particularly illuminating example, a man who allegedly attacked Zeldin at a campaign rally with a knife was released the next day because of New York’s bail laws. The man was later arrested on federal charges relating to the incident.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, while virtually certain to win reelection, is facing his closest race since he ousted Republican Sen. Al D’Amato in 1998. Siena had Schumer leading conservative TV host Joe Pinion by 21 percentage points, 56 percent to 35 percent. Emerson finds a similar 22-point margin, with Schumer at 53 percent and Pinion at 31 percent. Aside from his first race against D’Amato, Schumer has never received less than 66 percent of the vote. The highest share of the vote a Republican has taken against one of his reelection bids was Republican strategist Jay Townsend’s 32 percent in 2010.
More than likely, New York’s solid Democratic alignment will be too much for Republicans to overcome, no matter how displeased people are with Biden. However, the president’s struggles there should be an ominous signal for Democrats in less monolithically left-wing areas.
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