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Sep 18, 2012 5:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Siena Poll Ranks Bishop With Double Digit Lead Against Altschuler

Sep 18, 2012 6:30 PM

A public opinion poll by an upstate New York research group early this month showed Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton with a 13-point lead over his Republican opponent, St. James businessman Randy Altschuler.

But Mr. Altschuler, a second-time challenger to Mr. Bishop, who lost by a mere 600 votes against the incumbent congressman two years ago, has denounced the poll, with his campaign claiming that the researchers, the Siena Research Institute of Siena College in Loudonville, had “zero credibility” because in 2010 they claimed similar large leads that Mr. Bishop did not realize.

Regardless of the results, both sides acknowledged that polls are merely a “snapshot in time,” and that things can change.

In the poll, independently conducted by the nonpartisan group that has been polling for nearly a decade, 624 likely voters were surveyed between September 5 and September 10 by telephone. Those surveyed were residents of the 1st Congressional District, a district that is only slightly more Republican than Democratic, according to figures from the Suffolk County Board of Elections. As of September 4, the district had 154,132 registered Republicans and 128,944 registered Democrats.

The group of likely voters were asked a series of 28 questions, ranging from their views of Mr. Bishop and Mr. Altschuler, to their thoughts on President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. They were also asked what they believed were the most important issues during this election season.

One question they were asked is who they would vote for if the election were held today—Tim Bishop on the Democratic line, Randy Altschuler on the Republican line, no vote, or “don’t know/no opinion.” In total, 52 percent said they would vote for Mr. Bishop and 39 percent said they’d vote for Mr. Altschuler.

“People know him,” said Robert Pierce, the communications director for Mr. Bishop’s campaign. “They know what kind of job that Tim’s done and they trust him.”

The voters rated jobs as the single most important issue they want their member of congress to be working on, followed by the federal deficit, and then health care. Also on the list were education, taxes and the war in Afghanistan.

Forty-six percent of people surveyed said they felt Mr. Bishop would do a better job representing them on the jobs issue, versus Mr. Altschuler’s 39 percent. Fifty percent of those surveyed said Mr. Bishop would do a better job representing them on the education issue, to Mr. Altschuler’s 31 percent. But Mr. Bishop and Mr. Altschuler were both essentially tied, 42 to 41 percent, respectively, when asked who would do a better job representing them on the federal budget deficit.

Forty-nine percent of people surveyed said they wanted to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law passed two years ago, versus to percent who said they’d like to see health care reform legislation implemented as soon as possible. Seven percent didn’t know or have an opinion.

President Obama and former governor Mr. Romney are essentially tied in the district, according to the data.

Prior polls have placed Mr. Bishop ahead, too, said Mr. Pierce. He pointed to one the Bishop campaign commissioned in August by the Global Strategy Group, which showed Mr. Bishop with a 14-point lead against Mr. Altschuler based on a survey of 402 likely voters.

Two years ago, in October 2010, the Siena poll claimed Mr. Bishop was ahead by 14 points, according to a Politico article at the time.

“One looks at how badly they botched their 2010 polls, and it’s impossible for any reasonable person to take the Siena poll seriously,” Diana Weir, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign manager, said in a statement last week.

Mr. Pierce called on the Altschuler campaign to release polls he claimed they’ve commissioned but haven’t disclosed to the public because of negative results.

“Prove us wrong,” he said. “If he has a poll that shows him up then you would think that he’d put that out to the world.”

Ms. Weir declined to disclose the polls, saying they’re “internal” and “old” but that they were “very favorable.”

“If we didn’t have issues to talk about we’d be talking about polls too,” Ms. Weir said. “It’s not about a poll, it’s about the issues. And when Mr. Bishop wants to talk about issues, then we can talk.”

Steven Greenberg, a pollster at the Siena Research Institute, defended his group’s poll from two years ago. “When candidates like a poll, they praise the pollster,” he said. “When candidates don’t like the poll, they attack the pollster. There’s nothing usual about that and it happens on both the Democratic and Republican side.”

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