A tale of two polls

Photo by Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons

By Richard Lee

For years, political campaigns shifted into high gear after Labor Day when voters returned from summer vacations and started thinking about the November elections.

Today, the campaign cycle is never-ending. Lawmakers start preparing for the next election almost as soon as they take their oaths of office. Nevertheless, Labor Day remains an important benchmark in campaign calendars.

In New York, the big campaign news over Labor Day Weekend was a poll released by the Trafalgar Group showing Republican Lee Zeldin only four points behind incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial election.

In several previous polls by other polling organizations, Zeldin trailed Hochul by double digits.

Why the change?

Robert Cahaly, Trafalgar’s chief pollster, attributed the rise in numbers for Zeldin (and non-incumbents in other states) to voters’ response to President Joe Biden’s decision to forgive $10,000 in federal student loans for eligible borrowers.

Cahaly’s theory sounds logical. Although reaction to the loan forgiveness program has been mixed, reaction from opponents has been the loudest and the strongest.

But a Siena College Research Institute poll released Wednesday told a different story.

According to the poll, New Yorkers support the president’s loan program 56-33%, a margin of 23 percentage points. Almost every demographic group included in the poll supported the program. Support came from all income brackets, regions of the state, ethnicities and religions, as well as from individuals who never had student loans and those who had already paid back their loans in full. Only Republicans, independents and individuals 65 and older opposed the president’s decision.

So what’s the real story? Will the student loan issue make a difference in New York’s 2022 gubernatorial contest?

The polls send contradictory messages, so they won’t provide an answer. But they do offer a lesson for voters:

Don’t read too much into any individual poll. Instead, collect as much information (including polling results) as you can about candidates and issues to prepare yourself to make an informed and educated decision when you cast your vote.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. To read more of Lee’s ‘”On the Road to Albany” columns, follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, On the Road to Albany, Politics, richleeonline

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