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Poll: Cuomo's approval dips, still has big lead


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, shakes hands with Rob Astorino, his Republican
opponent for governor, before Cuomo speaks at the annual meeting of the Business Council
of New York State on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

Albany -- A new poll shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintaining a wide lead over his Republican rival even as the Democrat's job-approval rating dipped to its lowest point.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist College poll released Wednesday showed 42 percent of New York voters said Cuomo is doing an "excellent" or "good" job, down from 47 percent in August. Fifty-six percent rated Cuomo's performance "fair" or "poor."

PDF: Read the poll results

The drop in approval rating, however, didn't have much of an impact on Cuomo's large lead over his political foes. Among likely voters, the Marist poll showed 54 percent backing Cuomo with 29 percent supporting GOP candidate Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins picked up support from 9 percent of likely voters, according to the Marist survey. The candidates will face off on Nov. 4.

"The race for governor is all about Cuomo. Cuomo's supporters are voting for him, and Astorino's backers are voting against the governor," Marist pollster Lee Miringoff said in a statement. "The bottom line is Cuomo has a strong lead, and Astorino is still struggling to get traction."

Cuomo's support in the head-to-head poll was unchanged from August, while Astorino's climbed 6 percentage points, according to the Marist survey.

Astorino has consistently trailed in public-opinion surveys since entering the race in March, and has faced a barrage of television advertisements from the state Democratic Committee that paint him in a negative light.

The advertisements may be having some effect on voters: 37 percent of registered voters said they have an unfavorable impression of Astorino, compared to 33 percent favorable and 31 percent unsure.

The bulk of Cuomo's lead is built in Democrat-heavy New York City, where 70 percent of likely voters support him, according to the poll. In the city's suburbs, 56 percent support Cuomo, compared to 27 percent for Astorino.

The race is much tighter upstate, which is defined in the poll as the entire area north of the New York City suburbs. There, Cuomo picks up 42 percent support, while Astorino nabs 39 percent -- within the margin of error.

"That's what I've said from Day One: We're never going to lead in these polls," Astorino said Wednesday on Albany's WGDJ-AM (1300). "It just doesn't happen historically. But on Election Day, when people actually get a chance to vote, that's when we're going to win."

On the campaign trail Wednesday, Cuomo surrogates and Astorino argued in the media over their tax returns and state contracts.

Astorino accused Cuomo of "corporate cronyism," releasing a 100-page list of Cuomo campaign donors and the state contracts they have received. Cuomo has raised more than $35 million for his re-election campaign, and currently has about $25 million on hand.

"This perfectly illustrates Mr. Cuomo's modus operandi," Astorino said in a statement. "He promises to do what the voters most want; then when the camera lights go dark he turns around and does the exact opposite."

Cuomo campaign spokesman Matt Wing fired back, pointing out that Astorino was paid $1,800 last year to fill in as a radio host on WOR in Manhattan. The station is owned by Clear Channel Communications, which contracts with Westchester County.

"Rob Astorino should know something about real pay to play since he's used his position as County Executive to pad his own personal bank account," Wing said in a statement.

The Cuomo-led state Democratic Committee, meanwhile, continued to pressure Astorino to release his tax returns from the past five years. Astorino on Tuesday released his 2013 returns and separately revealed $100,000 of radio consulting income since taking office in 2010, but declined to make his previous tax returns available.

"Frankly, if (Astorino's) not hiding anything, he should just release his returns," Democratic Committee spokesman Peter Kauffmann said during a conference call with reporters.

Astorino countered by calling on Cuomo to release the contract for his upcoming book, which is due to be released by HarperCollins next month.

He also called on Sandra Lee, Cuomo's partner, to release her income-tax returns. Cuomo and Lee share a home owned by Lee in New Castle, Westchester County.

Cuomo and Astorino's approval ratings were based on a phone survey 958 registered voters in New York between Sept. 17- 21, with a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points. The poll of the political race is based on 517 likely state voters, with a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.