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Poll Shows Tight Race in New York Special Election

Poll Shows Tight Race in New York Special Election

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - August 10, 2011

The contest for former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s New York congressional seat appears to be surprisingly close, with the special election just a month away.

Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin leads Republican and retired businessman Bob Turner by six points -- 48 percent to 42 percent -- in the 9th District that Democrat Weiner had easily won each cycle since being elected in 1998, a new Siena Research poll shows. Only 15 percent of voters said they could change their minds about how they will cast their ballots on Sept. 13.

Turner ran for the seat in 2010 and lost to Weiner by more than 20 points (61 percent to 39 percent).

Weiner resigned in June after he admitted to having sent inappropriate text messages and pictures of himself to women online. His district includes Queens and parts of Brooklyn.

Weprin leads Turner, 50 percent to 40 percent, among voters in Queens, a borough where he and his political family his are well known. But in Brooklyn, where a third of the district’s voters live, the Republican holds a 49 percent to 43 percent edge over Weprin.

Turner garnered more support from his Republican base (80 percent) than Weprin received from Democrats (61 percent). But the district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, so the races hinges on who turns out to vote. Turner leads among independents, 46 percent to 42 percent. Both have identical favorability ratings, 31 percent. But most voters say they don’t know enough about either of the candidates to decide whether they like them.

Notably, the Republican has won the backing of Democrat and popular former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who cited Turner’s support of Israel in his endorsement. Sixty-nine percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Koch, and 38 percent say they would support a candidate Koch backed. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo carries similar weight. A Democrat, he has an equal favorability rating, and 39 percent of voters say they would back the candidate he endorses. Forty percent said the same for a candidate backed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer. Neither Democrat, though, has publicly endorsed Weprin.

“Five weeks until Election Day, and this special election is a wide open race with both candidates trying to become more known to the voters of the district and earn their support,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg in a statement released with the survey. “With a low turnout expected and limited media exposure in the nation’s most expensive media market, the test of both campaigns will be to mount strong voter identification efforts and effective get-out-the vote operations.”

Still, whoever wins may not hold the job for long. Not only will the winner have to run again in November 2012 (the contest is for the remainder of Weiner’s current term), but New York is also losing two seats to redistricting, and several reports indicate the 9th could be eliminated.

For this poll, Siena College surveyed 501 likely voters from Aug. 3-8. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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