New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, running as the candidate offering the biggest break from Michael Bloomberg's policies and leadership, has emerged as the frontrunner to be the city's next mayor, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.
The poll also suggests he could capture the Democratic nomination without a head-to-head runoff with the second-place finisher. An October 1 runoff had been considered a near-certainty.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows 36 percent of likely voters in the Sept. 10 primary support de Blasio, just short of the 40 percent he needs to avoid a runoff. The battle for second place is too close to call: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (21 percent) and former Comptroller Bill Thompson (20 percent) are neck-and-neck. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner's campaign continues to collapse; his support falls to just 8 percent, nominally good for fourth place.
De Blasio holds a strong lead among male voters, with 43 percent, compared to Quinn and Thompson, who tie at 18 percent among men. He also leads among women, though his lead is within the margin of sampling error: 30 percent, to 25 percent for Quinn and 20 percent for Thompson.
Among white voters, de Blasio leads Quinn, 38 percent to 28 percent. But de Blasio also leads among black voters, with 34 percent, to Thompson's 25 percent. Some have attributed de Blasio's strong standing among African-American voters to his first TV ad, which featured his biracial son, Dante.
The poll scrambles the calculus for Big Apple observers. Since Weiner entered the race -- and Quinn subsequently saw her poll numbers plummet into the 20s -- it had been assumed that no candidate would break the 40-percent threshold. But de Blasio's poll standing has shot up 21 points in just over a month.
And even if he does face a runoff, the Quinnipiac poll shows he'd start that three-week sprint in the driver's seat. Matched head-to-head, de Blasio trounces Quinn, 59 percent to 30 percent, and he also holds a double-digit lead over Thompson, 52 percent to 36 percent. (Only likely Democratic primary voters were surveyed, but other polls have showed de Blasio and his fellow Democrats crushing the two leading Republican candidates in the general election.)
De Blasio has positioned himself as the most progressive candidate in the race -- and the sharpest break from Michael Bloomberg's mayorality. That posture serves him well, the poll shows: 65 percent of Democratic primary voters say the city needs to take a new direction, and de Blasio captures 42 percent of those voters on the ballot test. Among the quarter who say the city should continue in the direction Bloomberg is leading it, Quinn leads de Blasio, 38 percent to 22 percent.
Some notes of caution on the new survey: It was conducted Aug. 22-27, mostly before Quinn earned the endorsement of the New York Times, which she quickly trumpeted in a new TV ad that launched on Monday. But the 29-point deficit would be difficult to overcome in a runoff -- if she can force one.
The Quinnipiac poll also shows de Blasio in a much stronger version than other public surveys, but New York City voters typically tune in late, with polling becoming more predictive over the final month of the campaign. Public polling is also likely to be disrupted by next week's celebration of the Jewish New Year, so any movement over the last week may be difficult to detect.
The poll surveyed 602 likely Democratic primary voters and carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.