As part of our ongoing effort to add new charts and tables, when polling data is available, for upcoming races in 2009 and 2010, we have set up a number of new tracking charts for the state of New York this morning. Those compilations include favorable and job ratings for Kirsten Gillibrand and Governor David Paterson (job, fav). For those who might have missed it, Peterson announced today that Gillibrand is his choice to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.
As of this writing, only two organizations -- the Marist Institute and Public Policy Polling (PPP) -- have released statewide favorable rating results for Kirsten Gillibrand, and none that we can find have released general election match-ups pitting Gillibrand against Peter King or any other potential GOP opponent.
As those two recent results show, the vast majority of New York voters are unfamiliar with Gillibrand. Two-thirds (69%) of those interviewed by PPP and 83% of the Marist respondents did not know Gillibrand well enough to rate her in early December. PPP's Tom Jensen posted a quick analysis this morning of the regional patterns in Gillibrand's favorable rating. Not surprisingly, she is better known in the upstate media markets "where her campaigns ads have run and [where] there's been more coverage of her work in Washington."
These results are an example, however, of when the most recent polling "snapshot" will be obsolete by nightfall. Given the presumably heavy coverage coming of today's announcement, both nationally and by New York City's many print and broadcast media, one thing is certain: Whatever Kirsten Gillibrand's name recognition was yesterday, it will at least double and possibly triple over the next few days, a change that the next round of surveys should capture. The snapshot from last month provides us with an intriguing historical benchmark but little else.
One chart worth watching closely on the next round of statewide surveys in New York will be the job and favorable ratings for Governor David Paterson. Since September, most of the surveys gave the Governor a job approval rating somewhere in the upper 50 to lower 60 percent range. The most recent survey from Marist showed the Governor's rating "slip sliding away," as they put it, falling from 54% on their December survey to 44% on their mid-January poll.
Our standard trend line does not capture much of the sharp decline in the Marist poll, since it is designed to essentially ignore a single anomalous result. We will find out over the next few weeks whether that Marist result was an anomaly or the first indication of a sharp decline in Paterson's popularity.
Also, keep in mind that Marist and the Sienna Research Institute offer respondents the choice of "excellent, good, fair or poor" as answer categories rather than the "approve or disapprove" choice offered by other pollsters. My experience is that "fair" category sounds neutral to some respondents that might otherwise opt for "approve" (and especially "somewhat approve"), and as such, the "excellent, good" formulation typically produces lower job approval numbers. So we recommend using our chart feature that allows you to make "apples-to-apples" comparisons by clicking on individual data points to see the trend for individual polling organizations.