100 person poll

100-Person Poll: Eliot Spitzer Edition

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer collects signatures from citizens to run for comptroller of New York City on July 8, 2013 in New York City. Spitzer resigned as governor in 2008 after it was discovered that he was using a high end call girl service. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Eliot Spitzer is happy that nobody can name his opponent. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

For the past two days, talk of the city has been yet the latest inspirational comeback candidacy by a disgraced, sex-scandal-tainted politician, Eliot Spitzer. But does Spitzer have a chance? And does anyone even know what a comptroller is? To find out, we set intrepid interns Erica Schwiegershausen and Katie Zavadski to Union Square to pester 100 New Yorkers into taking our poll — the very first poll, we might add, about Spitzer’s candidacy. (Margin of error around 10 percent, but still.) Here’s what we found.

First, we wanted to know if people even remember what Spitzer’s scandal was all about. Even with a menu of choices before them, only 80 percent remembered that, yep, he was caught shtupping hookers five years ago. At least 7 percent seem to have Spitzer confused with Anthony Weiner. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for Spitzer.

Our survey respondents recalled the fallout of the scandal much more clearly, for some reason.

As for Spitzer’s chances, New Yorkers appear to be more open to voting for him than they were for Anthony Weiner when he entered the race in April: 45 percent say they might vote for Spitzer, compared to only 33 percent who said the same thing about Weiner in our “100-Person Poll: Anthony Weiner Edition.” Subsequent polling showed an increasing willingness to vote for Weiner as the campaign proceeded, so 45 percent is likely a floor for Spitzer, not a ceiling. 

Of course, it helps when the devoted public servants you’re running against are pretty much unknown. We asked our survey respondents if they could name a single other candidate for comptroller. Perhaps they would be familiar with Scott Stringer, Spitzer’s main rival, or Kristin Davis, the woman who actually supplied Spitzer with escorts and, in a bizarre twist of fate, is also running for comptroller. However, only 16 percent were up to the task.

Finally, we wanted to know if New Yorkers even knew what the hell a comptroller is. We didn’t even make them actually explain it to us. We just used the honor system. Our survey respondents were free to lie and make themselves sound smarter, and some of them probably did. For all we know, they all lied. Nevertheless, only 21 people/liars claimed to have a solid understanding of what comptrollers do. Forty-five percent don’t even think they know more about comptrollers than a toddler would.