Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) holds a 10-point lead over challenger State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the race for New York's 1st Congressional District, according to a Newsday/News 12/Siena College Poll.
While Bishop holds an edge in the poll of likely voters in the district conducted from Sept. 7 to 11, the results also indicate a majority of those surveyed have an "unfavorable" opinion of the U.S. House of Representatives and a plurality favor Republicans retaining control of the House.
Fifty-one percent of the 592 likely voters interviewed for the poll said they plan to vote for Bishop, who is running on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, while 41 percent said they would vote for Zeldin, a state senator from Shirley who is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
Eight percent said they were undecided or had no opinion. The poll has a plus or minus 4 percentage-point margin of error.
"On the surface [Bishop] looks strong, but at the same time you have a district where a two-to-one margin of voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction," said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. "To have a challenger within 10 points in September certainly says this is a competitive race."
The poll will serve as a benchmark for a follow-up poll in October closer to the election, Levy said.
The sample of those surveyed reflects voter demographics in the East End district -- 28 percent were Democrats, 33 percent Republican and 33 percent declared themselves independent or registered with another party.
This is the second time both candidates face off -- in 2008 Bishop defeated Zeldin, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Though 54 percent of respondents had a "favorable" opinion of Bishop, including 36 percent of Republicans, Levy said some of the survey results pointed to possible problem areas for the incumbent -- 59 percent of respondents said they had an "unfavorable" opinion of the House of Representatives, 55 percent said they had an "unfavorable" opinion of President Barack Obama, and 48 percent said they would like to see the GOP retain control of the House.
Opposition to Obamacare
A majority of respondents -- 51 percent -- said they would support repealing Obama's health care plan, the Affordable Care Act, which Bishop voted for and Zeldin has said he would vote to repeal.
"Any way you look at it, Bishop has got to continue to run as a Democrat, a supporter by and large of the president's policies, and as a member of the House of Representatives, which is not all that popular," Levy said. "When we ask the global question, 'Who do you want to have a majority in the House?' you get a five-point plurality for Republicans. . . . It's not going to be lost on voters that Zeldin is a Republican and Bishop is a Democrat."
Bishop spokesman Evan Lukaske declined to comment on the results, saying the campaign's main focus is "continuing to reach out to voters."
"Rep. Bishop will continue to talk about his work to strengthen the middle class and his focus on creating more good-paying jobs here on Long Island," Lukaske said.
Zeldin campaign manager Eric Amidon disputed the accuracy of the results, noting that an earlier version of the poll included a third-party candidate who has since been tossed from the ballot. He also contends the sample does not match historical turnout data in the district.
Siena researchers contacted again the 29 respondents who initially supported a Green Party candidate and resurveyed them, adjusting the results accordingly. The results for each candidate increased by 1 percentage point.
"No matter what these results would have said, nothing would have altered our game plan to work as hard as we can to get out our message to grow our economy and create more good-paying private-sector jobs," Amidon said.
Jobs ranked as the top issue concerning district voters -- 27 percent of those surveyed said it was the main issue their member of Congress should work on, which Levy said could work to Bishop's advantage. Of those polled, 46 percent said Bishop would do a better job on the issue compared with 36 percent for Zeldin, while 18 percent had no opinion.
"Bishop retains his 10-point lead on issues like health care and jobs, a little bit more so on the issue of Social Security, but really it's a toss up on taxes and immigration," Levy said, referring to the narrower 1 to 2 percentage-point lead Bishop has over Zeldin on those issues.
Support for terrorism fight
A majority of district voters -- 52 percent -- said the U.S. should "do more both politically and militarily" in the Middle East to combat terrorism, including intervening in Syria and Iraq where the terrorist zealot group, the Islamic State, has continued to grow. Forty percent favored not getting involved and eight percent were undecided or had no opinion.
In a district that has seen an influx of an immigrant labor force over the past decade, 65 percent of respondents said they would support passing "comprehensive immigration reform that would include a pathway to citizenship for those already here," but respondents seemed split on who would do a better job addressing the issue in Congress.
Forty-one percent said Bishop, who supports a pathway to citizenship, would do a better job, compared with 39 percent for Zeldin, who has said he would vote against any "amnesty" leading to citizenship. Twenty percent of respondents were unsure.
Ashley Hunt-Martorano, 34, of Medford, a registered Democrat who serves as a project manager for an energy efficiency company, said she planned to vote for Bishop because of his environmental record and because she also supports immigration reform.
"Given the constraints of the current make up of Congress, he has at least tried to build bridges with people on the other side," she said.
Robert Craig, 50, of Smithtown, a Republican who works as certified public accountant, said he planned to vote for Zeldin because "he is more fiscally conservative than Bishop."
"I am definitely not in favor of Obamacare," Craig said.
With Sid Cassese
About the Poll
The Siena Research Institute interviewed 592 likely voters in New York's 1st Congressional District, who were selected at random from a pool of registered voters.
Researchers polled voters from Sept. 7 to 11, via landline telephones and cellphones. They collected responses from a sample of voters reflective of the district -- 28 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 33 percent independent or some other party.
The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The New York State Board of Elections candidates list included a third-party candidate in the race and the survey initially included him in the questions. Because that candidate had been knocked off the ballot, those who said they would vote for him were contacted again and the results adjusted accordingly.