Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy opened a 7-percentage point lead over Republican Tom Foley in a Quinnipiac University poll released today, although just 18 days before the election a large share of voters say they are undecided or could change their minds.

The poll shows the former Stamford mayor ahead of the Greenwich businessman among likely voters, 49 percent to 42 percent–more than double his lead two weeks ago.

But seven percent are undecided in a still-volatile contest, and one-fifth of voters say they still could change their minds in the last two-plus weeks of a campaign marked by heavy negative ads attacking the truthfulness of each candidate.

“After the debates and the latest ads, both candidates are better known, but Malloy is better liked,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director. “Both candidates have been on the attack, yet interestingly neither candidate’s overall image has been damaged.”

Malloy’s favorability rating has increased from 39 percent to 47 percent, while Foley’s has increased from 34 percent to 41 percent. Malloy is viewed unfavorably by 29 percent, up two points. Foley is viewed negatively by 25 percent, up eight points.

As with the Senate poll released Thursday, the new survey will give some comfort to Democrats, who watched Foley close within the poll’s margin of error two weeks ago.

“Tom Foley’s 42 percent share of the vote for Connecticut governor has not moved in two weeks. With less than three weeks to go, the Republican better start moving soon,” said Schwartz said.

Malloy has “some breathing room” and is closing in on what Quinnipiac called the “magic 50-percent mark,” he said. With neither candidate as well known as Senate candidates Richard Blumenthal and Linda McMahon, voters could still shift, he said.

Tom Marsh also is on the ballot on the Independent Party line. Quinnipiac did not present him as a choice, but one percent of voters volunteered they intended to vote for someone other than Malloy or Foley.

Voters remain pessimistic about the Connecticut economy. By a margin of 28 percent to 14 percent, more voters see it getting worse than getting better. Fifty-six percent say it is staying about the same.

Democrats are more upbeat. They are split, 21 percent to 20 percent, on whether the economy is getting better or worse. Thirty-one percent of Republicans and unaffiliated voters say it is getting worse.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, whose record has been criticized by both candidates, has an approval rating of 59 percent, with 33 percent expressing disapproval. She is not seeking re-election after six years in office.

The poll of 1,119 likely voters was conducted from October 7 to 11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. About 65 percent of the 1,700 voters Quinnipiac called described themselves as likely to vote.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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