Not so long before they became the city’s two major-party nominees for mayor, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota were largely unknown. Most New Yorkers could have walked right past Lhota or De Blasio on the street, bumped into them on the subway, or yelled “I’m walkin’ here! Fuggedaboutit!” at them without even realizing it. But after months and months of TV ads, campaign literature, articles in the local press, and segments on the nightly newscasts, we wanted to know just how recognizable these mayoral hopefuls had become. So we sent out intern Anna Silman to see whether 100 New Yorkers could pick Lhota and De Blasio out of a lineup of somewhat-similar-looking people. As it turns out, many of them could not.
For the De Blasio lineup, a photo of the Democratic nominee was placed next to head shots of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Jets head coach Rex Ryan, CNN anchor John King, and a random guy from a stock photo. Asked to identify De Blasio, only half of those surveyed — exactly 50 percent — were able to comply. Their other guesses:
Arne Duncan: 20 percent
Stock-Photo Guy: 17 percent
John King: 10 percent
Rex Ryan: 3 percent
To our great surprise — considering the relative lack of press the GOP primary received — New Yorkers were slightly more successful at identifying Joe Lhota. A slim majority of 55 percent were able to pick Lhota out of his lineup, which also included CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, comedian Louis C.K., and another random guy from a stock photo. The rest of the results:
Jim Cramer: 20 percent
Stock-Photo Guy: 14 percent
Ben Bernanke: 10 percent
Louis C.K.: 1 percent
One thing to keep in mind: The inclusion of other famous people in the lineups was supposed to make this task extra easy. If, for example, you didn’t know what Lhota looks like but recognized Jim Cramer, Ben Bernanke, and Louis C.K., then you had a 50/50 chance between Lhota and the stock-photo guy. So the success rate in a lineup composed entirely of unfamous people would probably be much lower. What we’re saying is that we’re not super impressed with New York right now.