A new Siena College poll of likely voters in Long Island’s First Congressional District shows incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) beating Randy Altschuler, his millionaire Republican challenger, by 13 points with eight weeks to go before Election Day—while President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney are in a dead heat, 47 to 47 percent, with 6 percent undecided.
In the survey, Bishop holds a 52-39 percent lead of “likely voters,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg, who explained that actual enrollment of registered voters in the Republican-leaning district, which includes the East End and Brookhaven Town, is 36 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic, and 35 percent independent and minor parties. Between Sept. 5-10, the poll called 624 likely voters in the district—34 percent Republicans, 29 percent Democrats, 34 percent independents and others—and “a few percent who wouldn’t tell us their party.” The poll has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.
Two years ago, the Siena College poll taken four weeks before the election showed Bishop with a double-digit lead over Altschuler. Ultimately Bishop beat Altschuler, who had moved into the district so he could run there, by 593 votes after a lengthy recount.
As could be expected, the Altschuler campaign was pushing back hard on this survey released on Sept. 13.
“Here we go again,” said John McLaughlin, Altschuler’s campaign pollster, in a press release. “Siena’s 2010 track record was appalling… They had Randy Altschuler down by double digits and we lost by less than 600 votes in a recount. They did drive-by polling that was poorly executed, meant to bias the elections in favor of Democrats and it appears they’re back to their old bias.”
“One looks at how badly they botched their 2010 polls, and it’s impossible for any reasonable person to take the Siena poll seriously,” said Diana Weir, Altschuler’s campaign manager, in a press release.
Siena’s Steven Greenberg was amused by their reaction.
When reached by the Press late yesterday, Greenberg laughs. “Shocking! A campaign that does not like the results of a public poll! Be it a Democratic campaign or a Republican campaign, when they don’t like the poll, they shoot the pollster!”
The college’s 2010 record was “actually great,” he countered. “Polls are not a prediction of elections in the future. Polls are a snapshot in time. I stand by that poll… For them to take a poll that was done four weeks before Election Day and say we were wrong is just absurd!”
As for what happens in the race on Nov. 6, Greenberg said: “Would it surprise me if Altschuler makes this a much closer race? Of course not, given what happened two years ago!”
Greenberg said Bishop is “doing a great job of holding onto his base”—87 percent of the Democrats say they support the incumbent. “At the moment, Altschuler is not doing a great job of holding onto Republicans. Sixty-seven percent of the Republicans say they’re supporting Altschuler but fully one quarter—25 percent of Republicans—say that they are supporting Bishop. Bishop has an eight point lead—49-41 among independent voters.”
Ticket-splitting seems to be characteristic of voters in Bishop’s district, at least at this juncture. “We see there’s a sizeable number of voters in the First CD who are voting for Romney and Bishop,” said Greenberg.
As could be expected, the Bishop campaign found no fault with the survey.
“Altschuler is going to parrot unfounded claims because he is a deeply unpopular Tea Party candidate with a long history of outsourcing jobs, and he’s still invested in outsourcing companies,” said Robert Pierce, a spokesman for Tim Bishop’s campaign. “We trust our own internal numbers above anything else, and this Siena Poll matches our internal numbers.”
Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer remained confident in Bishop.
“I think the poll shows just what we know,” sais Schaffer. “Tim Bishop is a very hard-working Congressman who’s delivered for his district… He’s got roots. People know what he’s done for the area. Look, 2010 for Democrats was the low-water mark, 2012 is only going to be better.”
Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle was traveling and did not return calls for comment.