CTNJ file photo

(Updated 11:48 a.m.) If the election was held today Republican Tom Foley would beat Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by six points, according to the first Quinnipiac University poll in four months.

The first poll of 1,304 likely voters found Foley has a six point lead over Malloy with eight weeks to go before Election Day. In 2010, Malloy beat Foley by 6,404 votes. That year, Malloy was up nine points over Foley in a September 15 Quinnipiac University poll.

Joe Visconti, the third gubernatorial candidate on the ballot, would receive 7 percent of the vote. Many conservatives have asked Visconti to get out of the race because they’re afraid he will pull votes away from Foley, but the poll shows that even without Visconti on the ballot, Foley leads Malloy by six points.

The poll also found that Malloy still does better with women voters than Foley, but that lead is offset by Foley’s strong lead among men. Foley also leads among unaffiliated voters, which is a key voting bloc in Connecticut. According to the poll, Foley leads Malloy 48-35 percent among the unaffiliated voters.

“In our first likely voter poll, Tom Foley has the edge but Gov. Dannel Malloy is certainly within striking distance,” Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said. “Foley has a double-digit lead among the key swing group, independent voters. With eight weeks until Election Day, there are 6 percent undecided and another 30 percent who say they could change their mind.”

Christine Stuart file photo

Malloy, who has never done well in polls, still has some high negatives.

“A difficult problem for Malloy to overcome is his high negative favorability rating, as 53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of him, including 40 percent who say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion,” Schwartz said. “It is tough for a well-known incumbent to change voter opinion once formed. In contrast, only 33 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Foley.”

Schwartz said it’s going to be tough for Malloy to change voters opinions about him, but what he can do is influence the opinion of a quarter of voters who don’t know enough about Foley to form an opinion.

“That’s where you could see some movement,” Schwartz said.

Some of the tools Malloy may use to do that are negative advertisements. Already, outside groups like Connecticut Forward, which is associated with the Democratic Governors Association has run a couple of negative ads about Foley’s record as a businessman.

Schwartz pointed out then when the institute polled the race four years ago Malloy had a nine point lead and in the end he won by half a point.

“Things can certainly change over these two months. That’s what campaigns are for … there’s certainly room for movement in this race.”

One of the poll questions was “would you say that Dan Malloy – cares about the needs and problems of people like you or not?” Forty-eight percent of the voters said yes, while 46 percent said no. Asked the same question about Foley, 46 percent of the voters said yes and 35 percent of them said no.

When it comes to the economy, regardless of which candidate they were supporting, 54 percent of voters felt Foley would do a better job at handling the economy and jobs. Only 37 percent felt Malloy would do a better job of handling the economy and jobs.

But when it comes to education and gun policy, voters felt Malloy would do a better job with those subject matters than Foley. Forty-six percent said Malloy would do a better job at education and 46 percent said he would do a better job handling gun policy.

“Foley leads Malloy in large part because he is viewed by most voters as better able to handle pocketbook issues,” Schwartz said. “Voters think Foley is better able than Malloy to handle their top issue – the economy and jobs. Foley also has big leads on taxes and government spending, while Malloy has small leads on gun policy and education.”

Meanwhile, Malloy tried his best Wednesday not to comment too much on the poll.

“I think it’s consistent,” he said at an unrelated event in West Hartford. “We’ve had to make some real tough choices, but Connecticut is producing jobs again. Budgets not in deficit are in surplus. The Rainy Day fund has been restored.”

The poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error and was conducted Sept. 3-8.

Schwartz declined to discuss the frequency of the public polls leading up to Election Day.

In 2010, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute did two polls in September, two polls in October, and one poll in November on the governor’s race in Connecticut.