The race for governor of New York appears to be tightening, according to a pair of polls released on Tuesday, the latest indication of renewed momentum for Republicans as they seek to stage an upset in a solidly Democratic state.
With three weeks until Election Day, Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Democratic incumbent, saw her lead over Representative Lee Zeldin shrink to 11 percentage points, down from 17 points last month, according to a Siena College poll released early Tuesday morning. Hours later, a Quinnipiac University poll suggested an even tighter race, with Ms. Hochul leading by just four percentage points.
The narrowing gap suggested that New York voters were growing more concerned about the state’s direction — much as recent polling nationwide has indicated that the economy and stubborn inflation remain top-of-mind concerns, as Republicans have expanded their edge over Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.
In the Quinnipiac poll, voters — especially Republican and independent voters — ranked crime, which Mr. Zeldin has hinged his campaign on, as the most urgent issue facing the state, followed by inflation and protecting democracy.
Democrats in New York, where Mr. Trump remains deeply unpopular, quickly moved to capitalize on the endorsement, releasing an ad trumpeting Mr. Zeldin’s close ties to the former president, including his vote against certifying the 2020 election.
But the congressman, who is vying to make inroads among moderate voters and disaffected Democrats, played down Mr. Trump’s formal backing, saying on Monday that it “shouldn’t have been news.”
Much of the difference between the two polls released on Tuesday seems to rest on divergent views of who will show up to vote.
Siena’s sampling presumes that 47 percent of all voters will be registered Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 17 percent independent or a third party. Quinnipiac, on the other hand, projects that only 39 percent of voters will be Democrats, 24 percent will be Republicans and 36 percent independent or third party voters.
The Siena poll, which surveyed over 700 likely voters last week and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, showed Ms. Hochul and Mr. Zeldin with a tight hold over voters from their respective parties, as did the Quinnipiac poll.
The Quinnipiac poll, which sampled more than 1,600 likely voters last week and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points, showed Mr. Zeldin leading among independent voters by 20 percentage points, beating Ms. Hochul 57 percent to 37 percent. The Siena poll had Mr. Zeldin increasing his lead among those voters to nine percentage points.
The governor continues to have a commanding lead in New York City, according to the Siena poll, which had her beating Mr. Zeldin 70 percent to 23 percent in the city, and among women as well as Black and Latino voters. The Quinnipiac poll, however, suggested that Mr. Zeldin would pick up 37 percent of the vote in voter-rich New York City, the state’s liberal firewall for Democrats.
Both polls suggested that Mr. Zeldin was leading in upstate New York while the suburbs remained a competitive battleground: Mr. Zeldin was beating Ms. Hochul 49 percent to 45 percent there, according to the Siena poll, and by just one percentage point in the Quinnipiac poll, which is within the margin of error.
Despite the gains, Mr. Zeldin would have to make much larger inroads across the map to cobble together a winning coalition. The state’s electoral landscape is stacked against him: Democratic voters outnumber Republicans two to one in New York.
And though Mr. Zeldin is receiving significant support from Republican-backed super PACs pumping money into the race, he appears unlikely to surpass Ms. Hochul’s sizable fund-raising advantage.
The governor has maintained an aggressive fund-raising schedule to help bankroll the multimillion-dollar barrage of television ads she has deployed to attack Mr. Zeldin.
But Ms. Hochul, until very recently, has mostly avoided overtly political events such as rallies and other retail politics in which she personally engages with voters. Mr. Zeldin, in contrast, has deployed an ambitious ground game, touring the state in a truck festooned with his name and a “Save our State” slogan.
In a statement on Tuesday, Jerrel Harvey, a spokesman for the Hochul campaign, said the governor still enjoyed support from a majority of New Yorkers, and discounted the Quinnipiac poll because he said it “substantially undercounted Democrats.”
“The governor isn’t taking anything for granted and will continue to contrast her strong record of results with Lee Zeldin’s MAGA agenda,” Mr. Harvey said.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.