TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Tompkins County rarely sees Congressional polling: When the county was in a heavily Republican district represented by Tom Reed, there was seldom demand for such polling in recent years because Reed was normally a heavy favorite.

Even this year, with redrawn district lines that have made a new, far more competitive district, there has not been much polling interest. That changed late last week with the publication of a Spectrum News/Siena College poll that shows Democrat Josh Riley, a former Department of Labor staffer and attorney with the high-powered Boies Schiller Flexner law firm who now lives in Ithaca, leading Republican Marc Molinaro, who has been the Dutchess County Executive since 2011. The poll shows Riley up by five points, 46-41, though that is within the margin of error for the poll and comes with a 14 percent sample of undecided voters, a fairly large percentage of people who answered they didn’t know who they would vote for yet.

Predictably, Democrats and Republicans are largley voting along the party line according to the poll, though more Democrats answered they would vote for Molinaro as opposed to Republicans supporting Riley. Independents are breaking for Riley, 46-40.

While the poll does not break down the sample by county, the western portion of the district, which includes Broome, Tioga and Tompkins Counties, is Riley’s strongest region at 48-33 lead. He also has a smaller lead in the eastern portion of the district, while Molinaro has a comfortable lead in the central portion.

The poll consisted of 470 likely NY-19 voters: 40 percent were Democrats, 35 percent were Republicans and 23 percent were listed as either independent or other. The largest demographic skews were towards older voters (66 percent of respondents were over 50 years old, compared to 28 percent who were between 18-49 years old) and towards white voters, who made up 87 percent of the sample.

For some more context of the sample, 48 percent of respondents said they would like to see Democrats remain in control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections, while 45 percent are hoping for Republican control. Interestingly, 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for Republican Lee Zeldin for governor against 45 percent for Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

As for notoriety, Molinaro easily leads that category, though at least in this poll it’s working against him a bit. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of Molinaro versus 38 percent who said they have an unfavorable view; meanwhile, respondents gave Riley a 28 percent favorability versus 19 percent unfavorable, but a whopping 53 percent said they don’t know him or don’t have an opinion on him.

Perhaps even more interesting than the actual candidate numbers are what voters told pollsters would be the most important issues for them during the midterm elections.

According to the poll, voters in the district rate economic issues, including inflation and the cost of living, as the a vital issue to determining their vote, with 52 percent rating it either the most important or second most important issue. Threats to democracy came in second with 31 percent ranking it either first or second, followed by abortion and national gun policies at 28 and 21 percent, respectively. Other issues, such as crime, healthcare, education and more, were all under 20 percent.

For some more polling context, browse this Twitter thread by WSKG’s Vaughn Golden.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at