As election nears, interest seems flat
There’s been lots of noise, but is anybody listening?
As the mayoral campaign between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Comptroller Bill Thompson heads into the home stretch, the candidates are battling not just one another but a seemingly tuned-out electorate, as New Yorkers greet the campaign with a collective yawn.
“People are not engaged,” said Lee Miringoff, polling director at Marist College, which has done several surveys on the race. “We’ve always been struck by how strong mayoral elections were and now we’re seeing the opposite effect. It’s not an attention grabber.”
It is a common sentiment, experts and pollsters said, in a year when an incumbent billionaire is outspending his opponent 16 to 1 and the ballot will lack a larger-than-life personality.
Miringoff called the candidates “charisma challenged” and said many voters don’t give Thompson much chance.
A recent Marist poll found just over half of voters rated this year’s contest boring, and 78 percent think Bloomberg will win. The same poll found Bloomberg winning a head-to-head match-up 50 to 39 percent.
“People don’t care because it will be Bloomberg,” said Anthony Guadango, 41, of Staten Island, who intends to vote for the mayor. “I don’t even know who’s running against him.”
One New Yorker interviewed Monday even thought the race was between Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Polls have suggested the race is tightening, and Thompson has become more visible in recent weeks, but with Bloomberg blanketing the airwaves with ads and Thompson just beginning the counter-attack, many say it lacks the feel of a true race.
As of Oct. 2, Bloomberg had spent nearly $28 million on TV ads, while Thompson had spent $305,000.
“It’s in (Bloomberg’s) favor because of the complacency of New York voters,” said Ken Gordon, 56, of the Bronx, a Thompson supporter.
After a Democratic primary that saw Thompson win the party’s nod with a historically low turnout, voting could well be down again on Nov. 3, said David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College.
“This doesn’t seem to be a particularly salient election,” he said. “There has been this steady assumption of inevitability.”
Thompson acknowledged Monday that he is the underdog and predicted greater enthusiasm from voters in the coming weeks.
Bloomberg would only say that he is enjoying this year’s campaign more than his previous two.
Evan Stavisky, a Democratic political consultant not involved in the race, said the economy also might be keeping voters distracted.
“People are confronting real challenges every day and politics takes a backseat,” he said.Phoebe Kingsak contributed to this story.