A new poll showing Eliot Spitzer with a sizable lead over Scott Stringer in the New York City comptroller’s race conflicts with two other polls released Thursday that showed the opponents nearly tied.
The newest data, which came out Friday, gives Spitzer a 50-35 edge over Stringer, the current Manhattan borough president, according to the New York Times and Siena College poll.
That’s at odds with a Quinnipiac College poll that showed the former New York governor knotted at 46 percent with Stringer and a poll in amNewYork that gave Spitzer a 3 point advantage in the battle for the Democratic nomination.
The swirling numbers raise the question of whether this is a close race or not.
Spitzer’s campaign basked in the numbers released by Siena and the Times, reiterating statements it made when confronted by the Quinnipiac poll that showed his once formidable lead had evaporated.
“We feel good about where the race stands today. All along, we’ve said that the only poll that matters is on election day,” said campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith in a statement. “We’re confident that New Yorkers will choose to elect an independent voice to the comptroller’s office.”
Team Stringer was unfazed by the results and like some sophisticated poll observers noticed potential flaws in the Times-Siena poll that cast doubts on its up-to-the-minute accuracy.
“We are confident that as more voters get to know Scott, he will be their clear choice to be the City's next comptroller,” said campaign spokeswoman Audrey Gelman in a statement to HuffPost.
The discrepancy in the results could possibly be explained by the methodology of the poll-takers.
The newer Siena-Times poll was fielded over a longer period -- 10 days -- than the two polls released Thursday by Quinnipiac University and amNewYork. Up until mid-August, Spitzer, who began the race with a name-recognition advantage, was alone in airing broadcast television advertising. Since mid-August, however, Stringer has launched his own ad campaign and won endorsements from the editorial boards of the New York Daily News, the New York Post and The New York Times.
An ad Stringer debuted on Aug. 27 -- at the tail end of the polling period -- touts the support he won from the newspapers' editorial boards.
If Stringer has been winning new support over the last two weeks, his gains would be relatively muted in a poll with a longer field period.
The difference among the polls is also greatest in their estimates of Stringer's support, which ranges from a low of 35 percent on the Siena survey to a high of 46 percent on the Quinnipiac poll. By comparison, the polls show just a 4-point spread (between 46 and 50 percent) in their estimates of Spitzer's support.
That difference is due in part to how hard the pollsters push initially undecided voters for an answer, and it's not surprising that potential Stringer supporters would need more of a push to express their preferences. On separate questions, the Siena survey indicates that nearly half of likely Democratic primary (49 percent) voters say they haven't heard enough yet about Stringer to rate him, compared to just 11 percent who cannot rate Spitzer.
Paul Moses, a Brooklyn College journalism professor and expert on city politics, explained the volatility in the polls.
"Voters are not paying attention through the summer," he told HuffPost. "It's really just a week or 10 days [after Labor Day] where the candidates have a chance, especially the lesser known ones, to address the public when it's paying attention. The electorate isn't firm in its decision-making."
The primary is on Sept. 10.
HuffPost Pollster’s chart for the Comptroller's race, which combines all publicly available polls to create a combined estimate of where the race stands, gives Spitzer a slight advantage over Stringer (47.3 to 44.7) as of this writing).