The race for the 6th Congressional District has now turned into a war over polling. Mainly, whose is better?
An internal poll released Monday by Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) shows the Republican within the margin of error against his opponent Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) in the 6th Congressional District race.
Conversely, an internal poll conducted by the Meng campaign shows the councilman behind by a sizable margin.
Halloran’s poll shows Meng leading 36 percent to 33 percent, with 30 percent of respondents undecided. The tally puts Halloran within the margin of error. It was conducted on Oct. 10 and 11 by McLaughlin and Associates and paid for by the Republican’s campaign.
“The poll confirms that Dan Halloran is on his way to winning this race,” said Halloran spokesman Kevin Ryan in a press release. “Dan won over Democrats in his Council race and he is doing it again in the heart of Queens.”
The Meng camp dismissed the results outright, pointing to its own internal polling, which shows the assemblywoman leading 51 percent to 22 percent with 27 percent of respondents undecided in a poll of 400 district voters.
“Leave it to Dan Halloran to release a tailor-made poll,” said Meng spokesman Austin Finan. “Once again, Dan Halloran just makes things up and expects no one to question him.”
The Meng camp did not provide the name of its polling firm. At no point in its polling did Halloran receive support from more than 24 percent of respondents.
Internal polls serve many purposes and their public release is rather common, according to political consultant Andrew Moesel of Shienkopf LTD.
Typically they are used to gauge a candidate’s viability in a race, as well as which message would best resonate with voters. Their release to the public is also part of that message control, signaling to supporters a candidate’s continued viability in a race many may have written off.
“I think that because of the national climate, we have more people paying attention to polls,” Moesel said. “The public has been educated to seeing these polls and understanding them every day. If these polls had come out two months ago, would anyone have noticed? No.”
Halloran’s poll paints the picture of an electorate that prefers the Republican once it gets to know both candidates. Among respondents who are familiar with both nominees, the poll indicates Halloran leads 40 percent to 35 percent. That lead jumps by 21 points when respondents have established a firm opinion of both candidates, with the councilman leading 61 percent to 33 percent.
The poll also found Mitt Romney leading among the 300 respondents, 46 percent to 43 percent. The results, if accurate, would be a big swing for a district in which Republican John McCain only garnered 36 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential campaign — though redrawn district lines have significantly changed the makeup of the electorate.
The race for the 6th CD has taken several distinct turns, at times ranging from accusations of racial politicking to, in its most recent incarnation, a battle between the haves and have-mores. But the populist tone typically used by Democrats has been co-opted by Halloran, who has begun using Meng’s personal financial wealth against the assemblywoman.
“Dan Halloran is ranked the No. 1 New York City Councilman for constituent services and voters know it,” Ryan added. “You can’t buy a record like that, even if you’re a multimillionaire like Grace Meng.”
Finan countered that the poll results released by Halloran lack an accompanying methodology to back-up his claims, dismissing them as bait for the Republican Party’s farthest-right faction.
“This ‘poll’ is nothing more than a desperate attempt on behalf of the Halloran campaign to raise money from its far-right, radical Tea Party base of support,” he said.
How effective a tactic is a poll’s release and ensuing bickering? The answer, according to Moesel, is “it depends.” It will neither make or break a candidate, but it could provide an extra push for one.
“Of course,”he added, “there’s the old saying, ‘Never trust a poll; they’re just a bunch of people too dumb to get out of a survey.’”