Two polls released over the weekend showed Democrat Kathy Hochul leading Republican Jane Corwin, giving Democrats new optimism about pulling off an upset Tuesday in a western New York special election.
Hochul led Corwin 42 percent to 36 percent in a poll released late Sunday by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm. The results closely mirrored those of a Siena Research Institute poll released Saturday that also showed Hochul at 42 percent, but ahead of Corwin by 4 points.
The Democrat’s consistent lead in one of the state’s most conservative districts is largely attributed to the presence of third-party candidate Jack Davis, who continues to drain support from the Republican candidate despite a barrage of attack ads from outside conservative groups. Davis, who will occupy the Tea Party line on Tuesday’s ballot, drew 13 percent of the vote in the PPP poll and 12 percent in the Siena poll.
That said, PPP suggested it would be “unfair” to suggest Davis is the only reason Hochul, the Erie County clerk, is leading Corwin, an independently wealthy state lawmaker.
“She is showing a good amount of crossover support, getting 16 percent of Republicans to Corwin's 11 percent of Democrats,” PPP pollster Tom Jensen wrote. “And she's also up 36-34 with independents. There were not very many House races in 2010 where the Democratic candidate won 16 percent of Republican voters and the independents.”
PPP surveyed 1,106 likely voters in New York’s 26th district by phone on May 21-22. The survey had a 2.9-point margin of error.
Looking more closely at the numbers, PPP found that support for Davis has eroded significantly in the weeks since a host of conservative outside groups began attacking him virtually around the clock on local airwaves. But beyond that, the polling suggests that western New York voters, while leaning to the right, actually think that things are worse under the new Republican House majority than before the GOP took over.
Specifically, 34 percent of respondents said that the House GOP is doing a better job, while 38 percent said Republicans were doing worse.
“Kathy Hocul’s possible upset victory Tuesday is partially a reflection of an unusual three-way race,” PPP President Dean Debnam said. “But it’s also indicative of the new Republican majority becoming very unpopular very fast. Barack Obama is more popular in this district than John Boehner.”
But PPP acknowledges that Corwin, once expected to cruise to victory, could still pull out a victory on Tuesday. It’s still a heavily Republican district, after all.
“Davis' support has been plummeting and if that trend continues and conservatives who don't really like Corwin hold their nose and end up voting for her anyway she still has a chance to win a narrow victory,” the PPP analysis said.