At the Glen Cove Senior Center, New York State Attorney...

At the Glen Cove Senior Center, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announces the expansion of an industry-wide investigation into predatory health care lending, checking into situations in which consumers, especially seniors and vulnerable patients, are misled about financing, causing them to be pushed into debt. (Aug. 9 2010) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

In the third gubernatorial poll in as many days, Democrat Andrew Cuomo has a substantial lead over Republican Carl Paladino with both registered voters and those likely to cast ballots in the Nov. 2 elections.

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found Cuomo, the state's most popular politician, beats Paladino, 52 percent to 33 percent, among probable voters. Conservative Party candidate Rick Lazio has 9 percent, while 6 percent are undecided.

The results were nearly identical with registered voters: Cuomo, 55 percent; Paladino, 29 percent; Lazio, 10 percent; and undecided, 6 percent.

Both sets of numbers show the decisive role Lazio, who once represented Suffolk County in Congress, could play in the race for governor should he decide to stay in. If Lazio supporters backed Paladino, Cuomo's lead among likely voters would shrink to 10 percentage points, close to the 6-point spread in the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Marist pollster Lee M. Miringoff said Lazio voters are less ardent than those backing either Cuomo or Paladino. Only 30 percent of those saying they support Lazio did so unwaveringly compared with more than 60 percent each of Cuomo and Paladino backers. Forty-percent of Lazio voters also said they may choose another candidate before Election Day compared with 10 percent of Cuomo voters and 7 percent of Paladino voters.

"Andrew Cuomo is ahead, and right now, this is not a close race," Miringoff said. "He is being bolstered by the Lazio factor, but he is just above 50 percent among likely voters, and you can't overlook the enthusiasm Republicans are bringing to this election cycle."

Cuomo does best in New York City and its suburbs, including Long Island. He and Paladino, a real estate magnate from Buffalo, split the upstate region.

In Nassau, Suffolk and other suburbs, Cuomo beats Paladino, 52 percent to 30 percent. Lazio receives 16 percent, his best showing anywhere.

Women also back Cuomo over Paladino, 60-25, while men are split on the candidates.

Miringoff noted that more of Paladino's support is a reaction to other candidates than admiration for him. Thirty-nine percent of Paladino voters back him because they are "against" the other candidates while 26 percent of Cuomo voters felt the same way.

None of the campaigns responded to requests for comment Friday.

The poll of 915 registered voters, conducted Sept. 19-22, has a margin of error of 3.5 points. The sample included 617 likely voters, and those results have an error margin of 4 points.

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