(Updated 1:50 p.m.) The race for governor in Connecticut is still dead heat with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley tied with 43 percent of the vote. Third-party challenger Joe Visconti received 7 percent, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
Seven days ago, the poll found Malloy up one percentage point over Foley, but Wednesday’s numbers show Foley winning unaffiliated voters by 15 percentage points. Malloy had cut Foley’s lead among unaffiliated voters in the Oct. 22 poll down to two points.
Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said the swing in unaffiliated voters to Foley is “a good sign,” for the Republican, “but still not enough.”
“In order for a Republican to win in Connecticut they really need to win overwhelmingly among independents. In the 2010 election, according to exit polls, Foley also did well among independents. I believe he had a 20 point margin among independents and yet he still lost,” Schwartz said.
Just six days before the election, 86 percent of Connecticut likely voters who name a candidate say their mind is made up, while 13 percent say they might change their mind. Of those likely voters, 89 percent are Malloy voters, 90 percent are Foley backers, and 56 percent of Visconti supporters say they might change their mind.
If Visconti was not in the race, the poll found Foley gets 46 percent to Malloy’s 45 percent.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are returning to their base with 87 percent of Republicans supporting Foley and only 4 percent supporting Visconti, and 82 percent of Democrats supporting Malloy and only 3 percent supporting Visconti.
Wednesday’s poll of 838 likely voters found there’s still a sizable gender gap between the two candidates. Malloy leads Foley 52-35 percent among women, with 5 percent for Visconti, while Foley leads Malloy 51-34 percent among men, with 10 percent for Visconti.
The good news for Foley is that is favorability rating has climbed back up since the Oct. 22 poll.
In Wednesday’s poll voters give Foley a split 43-43 percent favorability rating, while Malloy gets a negative 41-52 percent score. Visconti remains unknown as 75 percent of voters still don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
“Foley’s favorability rating has improved,”Schwartz said. “Voters now have a mixed opinion of him after viewing him negatively. Voters’ views of Malloy are stable and negative.”
In the Oct. 22 poll Foley’s favorability numbers dropped into negative territory with 40 percent having a favorable opinion and 46 percent having an unfavorable opinion of the former ambassador. The percentage of survey respondents who view Foley unfavorably went from 33 percent on September 10, to 39 percent on October 8, to 46 percent on October 22 and back down to 43 percent Wednesday. Meanwhile, the percentage of survey respondents who view Malloy unfavorably had dropped slightly from 53 percent on September 10 to 51 percent on October 8 and to 50 percent on October 22. But that percentage was back up to 52 percent on Wednesday.
However, Schwartz said the fundamental dynamic in the race remains.
“You have a governor who is not popular and yet he’s able to hold off his Republican challenger,” Schwartz said. “The Republican challenger Tom Foley has not been able to exploit the governor’s weakness. It appears the governor has done a good job of defining Foley.”
The good news for Foley is that his favorability has come back up slightly.
“In our last poll our voters had a negative opinion of him,” Schwartz said. “Today, they have a mixed opinion of him, but it’s not enough to put him ahead.”
Schwartz said he will be watching the undecided voters closely for the next poll. In 2010, the poll one day before the election had Foley up 3 points over Malloy.
“And on Election Day it’s going to come down to the ground game,” Schwartz said. “When you’re in such a close race turnout can make a difference that’s why Democrats are bringing in the big guns with President Obama and Michelle Obama and the Republicans are bringing in Chris Christie.”
Part of that ground game involves motivating a party’s base.
President Barack Obama will visit Bridgeport on Sunday, and First Lady Michelle Obama will be in New Haven on Thursday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make his fifth appearance in the state on Monday on behalf of Foley.
The poll was conducted between Oct. 22 and Oct. 27 has a 3.4 percent margin of error.