Connecticut’s race for governor remained tight Wednesday as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opened a one-point lead over Republican Tom Foley in a new Quinnipiac University poll, 43 percent to 42 percent. Petitioning candidate Joe Visconti remained at nine percent.
The tiny lead is Malloy’s first in more than a year of polling by Quinnipiac. With the exception of a September poll showing Foley with a 6-point lead, the university has consistently pegged the replay of the close 2010 race as a dead heat in 2014.
“The race for Connecticut governor looks very much like it will go down to the wire – again,” said Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac poll. “Republican Tom Foley has to be concerned that this is the first likely voter poll in which Gov. Dannel Malloy has a numerical edge, even though it’s razor-thin.”
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In its previous poll of likely voters Oct. 8, the first-term Democratic governor and his Republican challenger each had 43 percent.
Malloy for the first time showed gains in key demographics: His support among Democrats crept upward by four points, from 77 percent to 81 percent, and he narrowed a 10-point deficit among unaffiliated voters to two points, trailing 38 percent to 36 percent.
The governor also continued to widen his lead over Foley among women, 51 percent to 32 percent percent, a 19-point lead that grew from 11 points two weeks ago. Foley leads by 19 points among men, 53 percent to 34 percent, up from 11 points on Oct. 8.
Women tend to turn out to vote in larger percentages than men, and Democrats have been waiting to see the gender gap grow in Malloy’s favor.
Democrats are certain to hope the poll is the first public sign that the traditional Democratic base is coming home with the election 13 days away. President Obama will try to help the governor with voter turnout by headlining a rally in Bridgeport on the Sunday before the election.
Eighty-one percent of the voters who expressed a preference say their mind is made up, with 86 percent of Malloy’s supporters and 84 percent of Foley’s saying their votes are certain. Half of Visconti’s supporters say they could change their minds.
The survey reflects the toll inflicted on Malloy and Foley by months of unrelenting attack ads in what one study recently found to be the nation’s most negative campaign, as measured by television commercials. Outside groups have spent more than $10 million on the race, mostly for attack ads.
Foley’s unfavorables climbed six points over the past two weeks: 46 percent of voters now have an unfavorable opinion of the Greenwich businessman, compared to 40 percent on Oct. 8, while those viewing him favorably dropped a point, from 41 percent to 40 percent.
Malloy’s numbers were nearly static: He is viewed favorably by 42 percent and unfavorably by 50 percent.
One interpretation of the poll is that Visconti, for some voters, represents “none of the above,” as Quinnipiac found a 45 percent to 45 percent tie without him in the race. He was supported by 16 percent of unaffiliated voters.
Visconti is a Republican former councilman from West Hartford who has been active in the Tea Party and opposes the gun control law passed after the Newtown school massacre.
After being locked out of four televised debates, Visconti participated in a three-way debate with Malloy and Foley in New London on Oct. 16. He will face Malloy alone at 7 p.m. Thursday on NBC Connecticut as Foley has opted out of the one-hour debate.
The poll of 1,010 likely voters was conducted from October 14 to 20. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The sample reached through random-digit live calls to land lines and cell phones was 47 percent male and 53 percent female. It was 26 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic and 34 percent unaffiliated, as based on how respondents replied to this question: “Generally speaking, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”
Actual voter registration in Connecticut is 20 percent Republican, 38 percent Democratic and 42 percent unaffiliated.
A Rasmussen poll Sunday found Foley with a seven-point lead, but Foley discounted the result, saying his own polling shows that the race is a toss up.