A poll released late Wednesday offers a bit of good news for former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. He leads the former frontrunner, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer by nine percentage points. But there are a number of reasons his political resurrection is far from complete.
The good news — and it is good news — is that he's leading. Conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC 4 New York, the poll suggests that Spitzer's three-day-old campaign got a head start. As the graph at right shows, Spitzer (light blue) gets 42 percent of support. Stringer pulls in only 33 percent.
"My policies and approach to this election will not be determined by polls," Spitzer tweeted. "I am, however, gratified by these numbers..." He would indeed be well-advised not to put too much stock in the poll.
A lot of people haven't made up their minds.
A quarter of respondents haven't yet decided which candidate they support. Which is unsurprising, given that the position is comptroller, one of the more esoteric civic positions.
While The Journal notes that Spitzer's voters are more solidly behind their candidate than Stringer's backers, Spitzer is still basically trailing "someone else" by a 58 to 42 margin. Stringer's not a complete unknown, having held elected office for a long time. But few New Yorkers pay much attention to their borough president. When the campaign gets underway and people begin paying more attention, they might decide that this guy they're just discovering is preferable to the one they've heard so much about.
Spitzer has much higher unfavorable ratings.
The corollary to that argument is below. This graph shows the favorable / unfavorable ratings for each candidate.
Two things jump out. The first is that a full one-third of voters have an unfavorable view of Spitzer — twice the value for Stringer.
But the second is that gray region, the number of people who have no opinion. Usually this means that they're not familiar with the candidate. If Spitzer and Stringer do end up going head-to-head (see caveat below), Spitzer will do everything he can to undermine Stringer's candidacy. But Stringer has a lot of opportunity to introduce himself to voters without the words "hooker" and "socks" involved.
Spitzer trails badly with whites.
New York is a tremendously diverse city. But even so, half the voter turnout in the 2009 election was whites. And that's a group with which Spitzer is doing particularly poorly.
You'll also note that Spitzer is leading with women — but not as much as he is with men.
There's a huge margin of error.
The poll surveyed 1,213 New Yorkers. Of those, only 947 were registered voters. Of those, only 546 were Democrats. That's a surprisingly small sample size for a political poll regardless of jurisdiction, one that results in a margin of error topping 4 percentage points.
Spitzer may not get on the ballot at all.
This, of course, is Spitzer's overarching concern. As we noted this morning, the candidate is scrambling to get the petitions he needs in order to be a candidate at all. Stringer, meanwhile, has racked up 26 times the number he needs — having started the process significantly earlier.
According to reporter Matt Taylor, Spitzer's team celebrated when they heard the poll numbers.
Spitzer folks high-fiving over WSJ poll numbers at Sprig petition party in midtown.— Matt Taylor (@matthewt_ny) July 10, 2013
For the candidate's sake, one hopes that the high-five break from petition-gathering was short.