Bill Owens holds a tiny lead in the final poll of the 23rd Congressional District race before election day, and he has Doug Hoffman to thank for it.
The Siena College Polling Institute finds Owens holds a 3 point lead over Republican Matt Doheny, 40-37%, with 15% backing Hoffman, the Conservative Party’s endorsed candidate.
Hoffman dropped out of the race weeks ago and urged his supporters to back Doheny, but the message hasn’t gotten through to many people.
Siena then told Hoffman supporters that Hoffman had quit the race and asked again who they would back. This time, only 4% continued to vote for Hoffman, and Owens and Doheny tied at 42%.
“It is very surprising that this many voters are still unsure of Hoffman’s status this close to the election. And it works to Owens’ advantage and Doheny’s disadvantage,” said Steven Greenberg, Siena’s pollster.
Regardless of Hoffman’s influence, Siena’s poll finds support for Doheny increasing since its first poll of the race, two weeks ago. Support for Owens, the incumbent Democrat, has fallen in that time.
Greenberg says Doheny’s success hinges on telling voters Hoffman is out of the race and supports him.
“It appears likely that Hoffman will get enough votes to ensure that either Owens or Doheny will be elected with the support of less than 50 percent of the voters,” Greenberg said.
Owens won last year’s special election with less than 50% of the vote in a three-way race against Hoffman and Republican party candidate Dede Scozzafava, who quit the race on the weekend before election day, and, after suffering a public insult from Hoffman, gave her backing to Owens.