As the critical summer months arrive and the real race for the November mid-term elections heats up, the latest results from the Siena College poll have been released. The details of the poll show that both Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Charles Schumer have comfortable margins against opponents. But there is more that can be seen in the numbers.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is currently at the highest levels of favorability since being appointed by Appointed Gov. Patterson last year. At 42% favorable, with 24% unfavorable and 34% who don’t know her, Senator Gillibrand has made a huge stride forward from the prior month. The latest poll shows Gillibrand holding at 36% for those that would elect her, vs 38% that would elect someone else. This is an increase of 9% for those that would elect her (and a 2% decrease from those that would not) in the past 30 days. It’s a strong climb in the numbers, but still is far from the 50% mark that would indicate a majority of New York voters.
The biggest factor likely contributing to the growth in numbers is the fact that her 3 Republican opponents are all relatively unknown to the majority of New Yorkers. 80% of those in New York have no idea who the Republican challengers are, or where they stand [A quick review of the challengers can be found here] While some 40% of New Yorkers are unclear what Senator Gillibrand has done as junior Sentaor, the Republicans are even less known.
This makes the junior Senate seat race a question of ‘the devil you know’ to some extent. Hardly a ringing endorsement, especially given the flip-flop of Gillibrand on immigration and the Party-line votes on Obamacare, and the Obama Stimulus.
In huge contrast the senior Senator Charles Schumer currently maintains a 64% favorablility level with only 27% unfavorable. A remarkable feat as the failure of the Obama Stimulus, the resounding and continuing public rejection of the Obamacare, and the polar opposition to immigration reform (from the Party-line support Schumer is in favor of) all seem to have no effect on his standing. This may be part of the reason rumors of Sen. Schumer being proposed as the Senate Majority Leader have surfaced – assuming that Democrats retain the Senate and given the near universal acceptance that Sen. Harry Reid will not be re-elected in Nevada.
This favorability is not completely transfering into votes, according to polling. In the latest results Senator Schumer has 52% of voters that would re-elect him to continue his 10 years in the Senate (elected to Senate in 2000, served 9 terms in the House, a total of 29 years as a career politician). That’s versus 35% that would vote for someone else (off 1% from the peak in February 2010) and 13% with no opinion. More critical is the fact that this reflects the lowest level of voters willing to re-elect Senator Schumer since May of 2008 (54%) and a continuation of a trend of decreasing willingness to re-elect the Senator since the peak of 61% in May 2009.
While Senator Schumer is definitely known, the key factor in this race is again the lack of knowledghe among the public for the Republican candidates. 84% of voters are completely clueless about who the Republican challengers are. This creates the scenario that all long-term incumbents adore, ‘I’m running against someone?’
Looking at the figures a conclusion that if the Republican challengers gain significantly in public awareness of their positions and histories, a strong shift in polling outcomes is very likely. This is most critical in the case of Sen. Schumer’s re-election campaign, but could prove to be the key to the re-election hopes of Sen. Gillibrand.
Not indicated in the polling are the 3rd Party candidates which include Jan D. Johnson and others. Like the Republican candidates, the exposure to the public is critical in any potential success.
Overall, New York State continues to look Democrat at this point for the Senate races. But with the national trend against incumbents and Democrats, a worsening economic outlook and an increase projected in mortgage foreclosures, and a widening gap between Democrat leadership political goals and the public’s preferences the mid-term elections are far from secure. Political ads and townhall meetings, plus any debates, may prove to be the crucial determining factors by late-summer.