The Quinnipiac University telephone poll of 380 Republicans found Lazio ahead of Paladino, 39 percent to 23 percent. Four percent said they would vote for someone else in the Sept. 14 primary, while 33 percent were undecided.
Last month, Lazio, a former congressman from Brightwaters, was beating Paladino, 46-17, in the Quinnipiac survey. The gap between the two has shrunk 13 percentage points, which is greater than the 5-point margin of error.
However, pollster Maurice Carroll said both Republican contenders would lose badly to Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the current state attorney general. In this month's poll, Cuomo led Lazio, 56 percent to 26 percent, among all voters. He bested Paladino, 55-25.
Last night, Paladino told NY1 News that should he lose the GOP primary he will not mount a third-party bid in November. He has vowed to spend $10 million of his fortune running for governor while Lazio had less than $700,000 in his campaign treasury earlier this month, and Cuomo, $23.6 million.
Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo said the poll showed his candidate "rising . . . like the inevitable sun." He added, "Carl's message of cutting, not capping, taxes and spending is resonating."
Lazio spokesman Barney Keller didn't acknowledge the primary threat from Paladino, saying instead "the only poll that matters is on Nov. 2 and there will be a clear choice between Andrew Cuomo . . . or Rick Lazio."
In the Democratic primary for attorney general, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice leads the field of five with 11 percent. Assemb. Richard Brodsky of Westchester follows with 5 percent; State Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan, 4 percent; former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey, 3 percent, and former state insurance superintendent Eric Dinallo, 2 percent.
However, the error margin was 4.7 percentage points among the 441 Democrats polled. And 81 percent of those surveyed couldn't say who they were voting for until Quinnipiac identified the candidates. Even then, 73 percent were undecided.
"Suppose they gave a primary and nobody came," Carroll quipped. "Believe it or not . . . most New Yorkers - Democrats and Republicans alike - don't seem to be following the primary races for governor, attorney general or U.S. senator."