The first independent poll in more than a week on the race for Congress finds that what appears to be true is true: Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has pulled into a virtual tie with Democratic candidate Bill Owens, with just days left before voters decide.
The poll, conducted by the independent polling firm Research 2000 for the liberal website Daily Kos, finds:
Owens: 33% (down 2 points from the Reserach 2000 poll of 10/19-21)
Scozzafava: 21% (down 9 points)
Undecided: 14% (up 2 points)
The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted between October 26 and 28. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points.
Hoffman has surged in recent days, as a number of high profile conservative Republicans have broken ranks with the party to give him their support. Most notably, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin threw her support to the businessman from Lake Placid. His support from members of Congress has given him a mainstream appearance usually denied to third-party candidates. Conservatives nationwide have opened their pocketbooks to him so he can buy large amounts of advertising, and conservative groups have funded ads attacking his opponents.
His growth seems to have come nearly entirely from Scozzafava, the Assemblywoman from Gouverneur whose support for abortion and gay marriage enraged social conservatives. She has suffered from a lack of financial support and a lukewarm initial response from the national Republican organization.
Owens has held steady numbers throughout the campaign. He’s got enough money to fund a strong ad campaign in the final days and is getting some outside group attack-ad support as well.
The attacks from Hoffman and support he’s gotten from national conservative TV, radio and blogs has driven down Scozzafava’s appeal to voters. Just 32% of those polled have a favorable opinion of her, down 6 percentage points in a week. Meantime, those holding an unfavorable opinion have soared 11 points, to 46%. Generally, negative approval numbers that approach 50% spell doom for a candidate.
Hoffman may be turning the race in his favor in part because he’s winning the battle for independent voters. 53% of independents in the poll viewed him favorably, against just 14% who viewed him unfavorably. Owens is 31-24% favorable to unfavorable, while Scozzafava has sunk to 29-47%. Owens remains the least known among independents. 45% say they have no opinion of him, a number far higher than the other two candidates.
Democrats are strongest in their support for Owens. Republicans are split, 41% for Hoffman, 34% for Scozzafava.
Men favor Hoffman; women favor Owens. Owens wins with voters under 45, while Hoffman wins with older voters.
The poll also finds that people in the 11 county 23rd Congressional District favor, as the poll question put it, “creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans” by 51-44 % margin. President Obama remains favored by 50% of those polled, with 42% holding an unfavorable view.
One more independent poll is ahead, a third poll from Siena College’s Polling Institute.