John Catsimatidis Suggests Newspaper Rigged Its Poll

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John Catsimatidis. (Photo: Getty Images)

Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis is slamming a new Newsday poll that shows him badly trailing his rival, Joe Lhota, accusing the poll’s sponsor of skewing its results to put Mr. Lhota far ahead.

According to the amNewYork-News 12 poll, which was conduced by the firm Penn Schoen Berland, Mr. Lhota is now leading by a nearly 2-1 margin, with 50 percent of the vote, versus 28 percent for Mr. Catsimatidis–a far higher spread than previous polls.

“We are extremely skeptical about the accuracy of the Newsday poll,” said campaign spokesman Rob Ryan in a statement, citing the campaign’s internal tracking polls and canvassing calls, which he said “show a very different race.”

He further slammed the paper for failing to release detailed methodology or question wording when the initial results were posted while suggesting something more sinister was at play because the Newsday Media Group, which includes amNewYork, and News 12 happen to be owned by Mr. Lhota’s former boss.

“Our distrust is compounded by the fact that Cablevision, the parent company of Newsday, employed Joe Lhota for years as an executive in charge of Government Affairs and Cablevision has a lot riding on the outcome of this race,” he said.

But the paper and the polling firm strongly denied the allegations, saying there was absolutely nothing wrong with the findings.

“Our poll is sound and showed this fairly dramatic spread between the two candidates,” Penn Schoen Berland vice president Alex Braun told Politicker this afternoon. He said the poll was “waterproof in terms of our methodology,” with great lengths taken to ensure a representative sample of registered Republicans likely to turn out to vote in the September 10 primary.

“As somebody who oversaw the poll, I can assure you that there was no interference whatsoever,” he said, noting that he was unaware until the last minute that Cablevision even owned the paper.

As for the discrepancies with previous surveys, he noted that it had been more than a week since the last Republican poll, and that the race had likely shifted. “There are no actual recent public numbers,” he said.

He pointed out that the poll also closely mirrored this week’s Siena and Quinnipiac results when it came to the Democratic contenders. “You see the same dynamic. Everyone agrees de Blasio is ahead and you also see that Quinn has started slipping,” he said, arguing the only real disagreement is to what degree.

On Friday, Newsday posted a 16-page summary of the poll’s specific questions and full results on its website, but would not provide information about the methodology beyond the 400-person sample size and margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

“We stand behind the accuracy of the amNewYork-News 12 poll, which was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland,” a spokeswoman for the paper said.

Mr. Lhota’s spokeswoman Jessica Proud also  piled on.

“Its absurd and sour grapes,” she said via email. “Their campaign has been losing in every single poll since the race began and this latest survey proves that voters are clearly rejecting their scorched-earth strategy as well.”

In addition to the growing spread between the two candidates, the poll showed that about 20 percent of voters had changed their minds in the race and that more of those had broke for Mr. Lhota.