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Poll shows voters like Paterson's plans but not Paterson

ALBANY - Though most Democrats haven't heard of him, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy would do surprisingly well in a matchup against Gov. David A. Paterson, according to a poll released Monday.

The Siena Research Institute found Levy losing to Paterson, 46 percent to 31 percent. Not bad for a county official unknown to 71 percent of Democrats and who only announced an interest in pursuing the Executive Mansion earlier this month.

Levy also would beat Republicans Rick Lazio, a former congressman from Brightwaters, and Erie County Executive Chris Collins, by 7 to 16 percentage points, respectively. Paterson ties both Republicans while state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo trounces everyone in sight.

Still, pollster Steven Greenberg said Levy trails badly in a three-man primary. He garners 6 percent of the vote to Cuomo with 59 percent and Paterson, 21 percent.

The results suggest that Levy's potential entry into the governor's race undercuts Cuomo, who hasn't yet publicly thrown his hat in the ring. He was backed by 67 percent of Democrats last month in a two-man primary with Paterson.

Siena also found voters in large numbers back Paterson's call to cap state spending and institute term limits for state leaders, but say they don't plan to return him to office.

"His job-performance rating remains three-to-one negative" and "60 percent would prefer someone else" in the governor's office in 2011, said Greenberg, a former top aide to two Democratic Assembly speakers.

Voters have soured on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand after one year in office. She is viewed unfavorably by 32 percent and favorably by 30 percent. Only 29 percent of voters said they would back her in the 2010 elections.

In a hypothetical Democratic primary with 37 percent undecided, Gillibrand receives 41 percent; former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr., 17 percent and labor activist Jonathan Tasini, 5 percent. Former Republican Gov. George Pataki would comfortably defeat both Gillibrand and Ford.

The Siena poll of 806 voters, conducted Jan. 10 to 14, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Separately yesterday, Marist College released a poll showing Paterson's job approval rating has climbed 11 percentage points since November.

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