Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still leading the race for governor handily, in a re-election race in which his Republican opponent Rob Astorino is increasingly seen as a conservative, a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll released Tuesday found.
Cuomo, who is running for a second term, is ahead of Astorino 54 percent to 29 percent among likely voters, while 9 percent chose the Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.
In a state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, Astorino, the Westchester County executive, is considered a conservative among 40 percent of registered voters, up from the 27 percent who viewed him that way in July.
"Cuomo’s winning the battle to define Astorino on terms Cuomo would like," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Miringoff said he was "struck by the success of the Cuomo campaign in targeting and to some degree tarnishing Astorino as he’s getting better known."
A striking 57 percent of Astorino backers said they saw their vote for Astorino as a vote against Cuomo. By contrast, 74 percent of Cuomo’s backers said they would vote for the governor because they supported him.
The race is competitive upstate, where Cuomo has 42 percent of likely voters and Astorino, 39 percent.
But Cuomo holds a two-to-one lead in the suburbs, 56 percent to 27 percent. Seventy percent of voters in heavily Democratic New York City back Cuomo, compared to 15 percent for Astorino.
Cuomo also has the support of 27 percent of registered Republicans who have crossed party lines to back him, while only 11 percent of Democrats back Astorino.
The governor’s lead comes despite a 42-percent job approval rating among registered voters, his lowest since he took office and down from a high of 59 percent two years ago. Only 43 percent think the state is headed in the right direction, and 57 percent believe the state is still in a recession.
“There’s just a general grumpiness that voters have towards government, politicians and their job performance,” Miringoff said. “This is not unique to New York but we’re seeing it also in New York.”
But at the same time, Miringoff said, voters view Cuomo as a leader and believe that he cares about them and represents most regions of the state.
Fifty-five percent of likely voters view Cuomo favorably, compared to 33 percent for Astorino. By contrast, 39 percent have an unfavorable view of Cuomo, while 37 percent look unfavorably on Astorino.
Tuesday's poll is the first in the governor’s race that surveys likely voters as opposed to registered voters, and the first since Cuomo’s Democratic primary victory over a Zephyr Teachout, a little-known liberal challenger who nonetheless garnered about a third of the vote.
Any concerns that Cuomo might hit a rough patch following the primary are not showing up, Miringoff said.
“Astorino is having difficulty getting traction at this point,” Miringoff said.
Cuomo had already been leading Astorino by a wide margin. A poll last month found that although a majority of New Yorkers thought Cuomo’s staff behaved unethically toward a panel investigating corruption in government, he continued to lead Astorino, 54 to 23 percent, among registered voters.
The poll released Tuesday surveyed 958 registered voters from Sept. 17 through Sunday. There were 517 likely voters among them.