Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) holds a 15-pecentage-point lead over Democratic challenger and former Southhampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in the 1st Congressional District race, according to a Newsday/Siena College poll.
Fifty-three percent of those interviewed said they planned to vote for Zeldin, while 38 percent backed Throne-Holst. Nine percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion. The poll of 661 likely voters was conducted Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 2-4. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points.
Zeldin, running for his first re-election, is outperforming Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the district. Trump holds a narrow lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton, 43 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll.
Throne-Holst remains relatively unknown, with 43 percent of voters saying they had no opinion or did not know the former Southampton supervisor. Nineteen percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion of Zeldin.
Throne-Holst also is not getting the same support among female voters as Clinton. Women favor Clinton over Trump 48 percent to 35 percent, while Zeldin led with women voters 48 percent to 43 percent in the poll.
The top concern for voters was “keeping America safe,” with 36 percent of respondents calling it the most important issue they wanted Congress to work on. Thirty percent of respondents listed jobs and the economy as the top job for Congress members.
“Zeldin is in a strong position to win this election with five weeks to go,” said Steven Greenberg, a pollster for Siena College. “That being said, five weeks is a long time in the political world and campaigns are all about educating voters. If she makes herself known to voters, she can close this gap.”
Fifty-three percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard a Throne-Holst commercial or been contacted by her campaign, while 32 percent said the same about Zeldin.
Zeldin, 36, leads among independent and minor party voters by 17 points. Throne-Holst, 56 of Sag Harbor, is getting support from 78 percent of Democrats, while Zeldin is getting support from 84 percent of Republicans.
Greenberg said, “She has to do a better job of bringing her base back home, and do a better job of picking up independent voters, if she wants to get back in the game.”
The district, covering Brookhaven, slivers of Smithtown and Islip, and the five eastern Suffolk towns, has been a hard-fought battleground. Zeldin in 2014 beat six-term Democratic congressman Tim Bishop. Democrats hope higher turnout in a presidential year would benefit them. President Barack Obama narrowly carried the district in 2008 and 2012.
Republicans made up 39 percent of the poll sample, while Democrats were 31 percent. This favors Republicans compared to current enrollment, which is 34 percent to 30 percent, but more closely reflects the 2012 election when Republican turnout beat Democratic by seven percentage points, Greenberg said.
Voters had a negative view of the U.S. House of Representatives, 28 percent favorable versus 58 percent unfavorable, though 50 percent want Republicans to retain control versus 42 percent for Democrats.
On issues, district voters have a mix of views, reflecting the district’s swing status.
For example, a majority — 55 percent — want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, versus 43 percent who want to keep and improve it.
But voters don’t take a hard-line position on immigrants without legal documents — 61 percent said they favored creating a pathway for those here illegally to become citizens, versus 32 percent who’d rather deport those here illegally.
When it comes to global warming, 72 percent called it “a real, significant threat to our planet” while 22 percent said it was “neither real nor based in science.”
Respondents split almost evenly on gun control, which has been the focus of Throne-Holst’s campaign. Forty-nine percent identified themselves as “gun control supporters” while 48 percent said they were “Second Amendment supporters.”
Zeldin campaign manager Erin McTiernan said the campaign has the momentum as voters recognize the work he’s done in his 21 months in office. “Voters are clearly seeing through our opponent’s despicable tactics, sorting fact from fiction and rejecting the false, negative and partisan attacks on our congressman,” she said. “Long Islanders support Lee Zeldin as their voice on key issues ranging from national security to local infrastructure needs and voters know they have a champion fighting for them.”
Throne-Holst campaign manager Andrew Grunwald said the race is still competitive as voters focus on the race in the last 30 days. “We have the race in a very different place and feel very good about our ability to win this election,” he said in a statement. “Voters are just beginning to learn about Lee Zeldin’s out of step positions.”
Brian Carabine, a 73-year-old East Hampton Republican who retired from a civil engineering firm and served with the Marines in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, said he appreciated Zeldin’s service in the U.S. Army and work on veterans’ issues.
“His experience is not shared by many members of Congress,” Carabine said. “He makes the service a priority.”
Thomas Walsh, 67 of Nesconset, said he was supporting Throne-Holst because of Zeldin’s opposition to gun control measures, including preventing those on terrorism watch lists from buying firearms. “He tends to be too conservative for me,” said Walsh, a retired shop teacher.