Mayoral poll shows Yang ahead, McGuire with uphill battle

Voters also know Adams and Stringer, frown on “banker” label

(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)
(Getty, iStock/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)

Covid is the top issue for Democratic voters in the city, but they have mixed feelings on who should handle it as the next mayor, according to a new poll.

The first independent survey of the race, from Fontas Advisors and Core Decision Analytics, found that former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has the most name recognition and early support, followed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The results also suggest that Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive recruited to run by business leaders, is starting at a disadvantage because he is a banker.

The poll, taken just after Yang entered the race, found 84 percent of 842 likely voters had heard of the entrepreneur and 28 percent would vote for him if the Democratic primary were today. That means two-thirds of voters familiar with Yang are not sold on him.

That ratio was slightly worse for Adams, who was recognized by 60 percent of respondents and backed by 17 percent. Stringer was better known but less loved than Adams: With 66 percent name recognition and 13 percent support, about 4 in 5 respondents who knew the comptroller were not ready to vote for him.

The horse-race question showed former U.S. housing secretary Shaun Donovan and former de Blasio administration counsel Maya Wiley at 8 percent and three candidates, including McGuire, at 2 percent. Some 19 percent of voters said they were unsure of their choice.

But the lobbyist who commissioned the poll said Yang, given his high name recognition, may be closer to his ceiling than Adams and Stringer.

“I think they have nowhere to go but up,” George Fontas, CEO of Fontas Advisors, said of the two elected officials.

Meanwhile, McGuire, who in October left his vice-chairman post at Citigroup to make his first bid for office, may have a challenging road ahead.

Only one-quarter of voters indicated that they had heard of McGuire, but when told that he is a “finance executive,” 24 percent said they would probably not consider voting for him and another 8 percent said they “definitely” would not.

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Those were the worst numbers for any of the nine candidates on that question. The second-worst were for Zach Iscol, which may explain why he has since left the race to instead run for Stringer’s seat.

Only 5 percent said they would definitely vote for McGuire, and 17 percent said they would probably consider him. Adam Rosenblatt, CEO of Core Decision Analytics, said the identification of McGuire’s profession may explain voters’ reaction.

McGuire, who grew up in poverty in Dayton, Ohio, still has at least $4 million in his campaign war chest and four months to define himself as something other than a Wall Street banker.

Some 30 percent of poll respondents identified vaccine distribution and preventing the spread of Covid-19 as their top issue in the race. Reopening the economy and job creation followed at 19 percent, and 16 percent said crime and safety was most important to them.

Only 7 percent indicated that housing was their top priority in the race, placing it in the same ballpark as health care, homelessness, police reform and education.

Voters said the attributes they were seeking most in a mayoral candidate were a detailed plan on an issue of great concern and a broad plan on other matters, followed by government experience. Just 44 percent said private-sector experience was very important.

Only 19 percent strongly agreed with the statement that they would consider leaving the city permanently if they could; another 28 percent said they somewhat agreed with that.

The online poll focused on nine of the 40-plus mayoral hopefuls, based on money raised and media attention, and was conducted between Jan. 20 and Jan. 25. It was limited to Democratic New Yorkers who plan to vote in the June primary.

A lot could change in the race, said Fontas, who said he commissioned the poll and plans two more because he has found his clients — many from the real estate industry — to be intensely interested in the race. The first candidate advertisement, by Donovan, was released only this week.

It is not yet clear how ranked-choice voting will affect the results; for the first time, mayoral candidates in the city are aiming to be the second or third choice for voters who have a different top pick.