While news headlines would like you to believe that Bill de Blasio has the Democratic mayoral nomination all sewn up, NYC mayoral polls have historically struggled to accurately predict the outcome of NYC elections.
In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg squeaked out a victory over then-comptroller Bill Thompson despite being widely hailed in the polls as the overwhelming favorite. Polls similarly failed to predict John Liu’s victory in that year’s comptroller election. Analysts have criticized pollster’s efforts at likely-voter screens, arguing that they systematically under count minority and low income voters.
New York State also makes it hard for campaigns to turn out last minute voters, as voters had to register by August 16. Registered voters without a political party had until October 2012 to declare a party affiliation in time to be eligible to vote in this election.
In order for de Blasio to advance to the general election without a primary runoff against the second place candidate, he will need to garner more than 40% of the vote. Here’s a rundown of the major candidates (excluding those polling at 1% or below) and their election day upsides and downsides.
1. Bill de Blasio
The NYC public advocate has jumped to the front of the pack in the primary after taking strong stands on Stop-and-Frisk and taxes on the wealthy.
Upside: He polled at 39% in Quinnipiac University’s latest poll. As the clear front runner going into the day, he benefits from momentum.
Downside: He polled at just 36% in a competing NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll. Neither of the latest poll numbers has him doing well enough to avoid a primary. de Blasio also may have trouble in turnout against rivals Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn, both of whom have stronger get-out-the-vote operations.
Prediction: He will garner the most votes, but not enough to avoid a runoff. His lack of a ground game will hurt him at the polls.
2. Bill Thompson
The former city comptroller has been gaining in the polls and could over-perform his numbers like he did in 2009.
Upside: He has polled at 20% and 25% in the latest polls and seems to be the beneficiary of late-deciding voters. He has the teacher’s union behind him, which will help him with turnout.
Downside: Thompson and Quinn will be in a close race for second place, and Quinn’s not going down without a fight.
Prediction: Thompson makes it to the runoff unless Quinn has a surprisingly strong showing.
3. Christine Quinn
Hailed as the front runner in early polls, the city council speaker has lost much of her momentum after struggling to distinguish herself from the outgoing Mayor Bloomberg.
Upside: In the Marist poll, Quinn is tied with Thompson (although Quinnipiac shows her six points behind). She will also benefit from her strong get-out-the-vote operation led by Bloomberg campaign veterans.
Downside: Quinn’s poll numbers have been trending downward and her unfavorables are high, making her unlikely to pick up last minute support.
Prediction: Quinn will not make it into the runoff unless she manages an above-average turnout operation.
4. Anthony Weiner
The former U.S. Representative is using the mayoral race to make a political comeback after a sex scandal.
Upside: Weiner has high name recognition, which has helped him keep his poll numbers hovering around 6% and 7%.
Downside: Most people who make it to the primary polls on Tuesday will recognize his name for his "sexting" exploits, not his political achievements. His campaign has also been publicly troubled after additional "sexting" revelations and his campaign manager quitting.
Prediction: Weiner will underperform his poll numbers, which may be inflated due to high name recognition.
5. John Liu
The city comptroller has struggled to make headway in the polls, particularly with a federal probe into his campaign finances.
Upside: Liu has a reputation for being a marathon campaigner and has strong support in immigrant and minority communities. He has held more campaign events in every borough than any other candidate. He has historically beat his poll numbers and argues that the polls fail to capture his base.
Downside: With only 5% and 4% of the vote in the latest polls, he would have to triple or quadruple those numbers to have a shot at the runoff.
Prediction: Liu will have a stronger-than-expected showing at the polls, but he won’t make the runoff.