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Different polls reportedly show Stefanik, Doheny ahead in tight NY21 primary race

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WATERTOWN — Four days ahead of the primary election, different polling data in New York’s 21st Congressional District apparently show each of the two Republican candidates ahead of the other.

According to an automated poll conducted by GOP firm Harper Polling, Elise M. Stefanik leads opponent Matthew A. Doheny by 8 percentage points ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.

Mr. Doheny countered Friday with his own polling data, which he said differed from the Harper poll by double digits. Mr. Doheny said that undecided voters were breaking his way and that the race would be tight.

“Very, very tight,” Mr. Doheny said.

The Harper poll, which measured the favorability of both candidates among 498 likely Republican primary voters, was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.39 percentage points.

Forty-five percent of likely voters said they would vote for Ms. Stefanik in the primary, 37 percent said they would vote for Mr. Doheny and 18 percent said they were unsure.

Asked about their opinion of Mr. Doheny, 39 percent of voters polled said they had a favorable opinion, 40 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion and 20 percent said they were not sure.

Asked about Ms. Stefanik, 49 percent of voters polled said they had a favorable opinion, 29 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion and 22 percent said they were not sure.

The poll comes in the wake of more than $770,000 in outside spending by American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, expressly opposing Mr. Doheny.

Voters were asked if they had seen, read or heard anything recently about both candidates. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had for Mr. Doheny and 82 percent said they had for Ms. Stefanik.

The information about Mr. Doheny left respondents with a 35 percent favorable impression of the candidate and a 45 percent unfavorable impression of him; 20 percent said they were not sure.

The information about Ms. Stefanik left respondents with a 48 percent favorable impression of the candidate and a 37 percent unfavorable impression of her; 16 percent said they were not sure.

The poll was not commissioned by either candidate.

“The poll was intended to take measure of a race that we believe is an intriguing one. We routinely poll interesting primary races in both parties in addition to Senate and governor general election races around the country,” Brock McCleary, president of Harper Polling and former polling director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an email.

The Doheny campaign dismissed the poll results as being connected with American Crossroads and other outside groups spending money in the race and said the results did not match with the campaign’s own internal polling.

“Like everything else in Elise Stefanik’s campaign, these survey results, by a private GOP polling company, are bought and paid for by the same people who have spent millions on negative ads attacking Matt,” David M. Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Doheny, said in an emailed statement. “Our focus has been on the ground, with real North Country voters, and as Matt knocks on his 2000th door this afternoon there is a growing momentum for his positive, homegrown message of jobs and opportunity.”

Ms. Stefanik’s campaign sought to distance itself from the poll results, focusing instead on the support the campaign has received from within the district.

“We are focused on one poll only and that is the one that happens on Election Day,” Charlotte Guyett, campaign press secretary, said in an email. “We continue to feel a surge of momentum and enthusiasm for Elise’s positive message to bring new ideas and new leadership to shake up Washington. We appreciate the groundswell of support from grassroots leaders and Republican voters around the district.”

While automated polls have a troubled track record in local races, the results of the poll should be concerning to Mr. Doheny, according to John Zogby, founder of the Zogby poll.

Mr. Doheny should be in a much better position than he is, given the fact that he has run for the seat twice before and lost narrowly both times, Mr. Zogby said.

The key to the race may lie within that 18 percent of voters who have not yet decided for whom they will vote.

“Four days before the primary, 18 percent undecided? That’s big. But it’s not uncommon given the obscene amount of money that’s been spent,” Mr. Zogby said. “The question is, who’s going to come out and vote? Who’s got the better ground game?”

As for Mr. Doheny’s comment that the results of the Harper poll do not match the results from his internal polling, “He needs to release that,” Mr. Zogby said. “That’s what candidates always say.”

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