The Siena Research Institute found 45 percent of Republican voters would back Lazio, of Brightwaters, while 16 percent would support Levy, who joined the GOP last Friday after decades as a Democrat. Forty percent said they had no opinion.
The poll was conducted March 15 to 18, before Levy officially declared his candidacy for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Lazio's lead over Levy increased to 60 -19 when poll respondents were told he is a "former Republican congressman" and Levy is "the current Democratic Suffolk County executive."
Pollster Steven Greenberg said, "While Levy is new to the Republican Party and new to the race, he has quite a bit of catching up to do."
Lazio led Levy in all regions of the state, political groups and most demographic groups. However, African-Americans favored Levy over Lazio, 69 to 13, and Latinos, 52 to 29. That's somewhat surprising given that African-American and Hispanic leaders have blasted Levy's tough stand against illegal immigration.
Levy led Lazio among Jewish voters, 53 percent to 39 percent. Although Levy has what is considered a Jewish name, he is Catholic.
In a matchup against Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, Lazio would lose 59 percent to 21 percent and Levy would lose 63 percent to 16 percent.
"With more than seven months until the election, the undeclared candidate for governor remains the candidate to beat," Greenberg said, referring to Cuomo.
The Siena survey also found that more than six in 10 voters want Gov. David A. Paterson to finish his term, which ends Jan. 1.
However, many voters question the governor's truthfulness.
Only 5 percent said they believe everything he says, and 56 percent said they believe some things but not others. Twenty-three percent said they believe very little of what he says and 12 percent believe nothing.
Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch's plan to close the state's five-year $60 billion deficit received mix views.
By 48 to 27, voters opposed borrowing $6 billion over three years to lessen spending cuts. However by 46 to 24, they back the creation of a financial review board to insure the budget remained balanced throughout the year.
"It seems [Ravitch] has a lot of work to do if he's going to gain public understanding of and support for his budget proposals," Greenberg said.
The Siena poll of 810 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.