The 314 Action Fund, which works to elect scientists, doctors, and professionals in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), issued results of a poll on Tuesday showing a tight race between Representative Lee Zeldin and Nancy Goroff, who is on leave from her position as chairwoman of Stony Brook University's chemistry department.
The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of the 314 Action Fund, shows Mr. Zeldin, the Republican incumbent, leading Ms. Goroff by just one percentage point, 49 to 48, with 2 percent undecided. Its conclusions are based on a telephone survey of 402 likely voters conducted between Oct. 5 and last Thursday by live interviewers and reaching voters on both landlines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Lance Trover, a spokesman for Mr. Zeldin's campaign, said on Tuesday that "This is just another garbage poll conducted and funded by Democrats to lure donors into funding a losing campaign being run by a radical professor who has several dangerous anti-police and other far-left positions."
Mr. Zeldin defeated Perry Gershon, his Democratic challenger, in 2018 by four percentage points. That election saw Democrats gain a net of 40 seats in retaking the majority in the House of Representatives. He defeated his 2016 Democratic challenger, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, by 16 points. "The political dynamics at play in this district are very different than 2016," according to a statement by the polling firm.
The poll reveals another worrisome sign for Mr. Zeldin, who is seeking a fourth term in Congress. Whereas then-candidate Donald Trump won the district by 12 percentage points in the 2016 election, the poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading the president by four percentage points now, 49 to 45 percent. Mr. Zeldin has proven himself one of the president's most stalwart supporters in Congress, and flagging support for the president could depress turnout for the congressman.
"This shift in Trump's standing has also impacted Zeldin, as the partisan support in the race closely tracks the presidential contest," the pollsters said. Ms. Goroff "enjoys stronger Democratic base support than Zeldin gets among Republicans, while remaining close among independent voters."
The poll showed registered Democrats favoring Ms. Goroff by 95 percent to 5 percent, and Republicans favoring Mr. Zeldin by 90 percent to 7 percent. Independents break for Mr. Zeldin by 50 percent to 47 percent, according to the poll.
The president's support is slightly softer among Republicans than Mr. Biden's is among Democrats, the poll found. Republicans favor Mr. Trump by 89 percent to 9 percent, whereas Democrats favor Mr. Biden by 96 percent to 4 percent. Independents are evenly split, with each candidate for president garnering 44 percent.
If elected, Ms. Goroff would be the first female Ph.D. scientist to serve in the House of Representatives. The 314 Action Fund will spend $2.5 million in support of her campaign, according to its statement issued on Tuesday. Ms. Goroff previously announced that she had raised more than $2.75 million in the third quarter.
"Despite Trump's despicable attacks on science, Lee Zeldin has stood by the president at every turn, and Long Island voters have taken notice," John Sweeney, a spokesman for the fund, said in a statement. "Dr. Nancy Goroff, whose scientific expertise makes her uniquely qualified to combat the nation's most pressing science-based issues such as climate change, will be the champion of facts and evidence-based policymaking that New York's First Congressional District deserves."
The 314 Action Fund also issued a "scorecard" for Mr. Zeldin, in which it said the congressman "has failed the people of New York's First Congressional District." The group said that Mr. Zeldin "has earned a failing lifetime pro-science vote score of 13 percent."
The Cook Political Report moved the race from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican," as did the political website Daily Kos. "The fears among Republicans are either that the president's political problems have metastasized to downballot candidates, or that disillusioned Republicans will opt to stay home, dooming G.O.P. Senate and House candidates," Cook Political Report's Charlie Cook wrote on Friday.
While Daily Kos cites earlier polls, conducted in July and August, they show a trend toward Ms. Goroff. And yet "Zeldin still has the advantage here," according to an Aug. 31 post on the site that noted his well-financed campaign. "Long Island Republicans also habitually perform well further down the ballot, so Zeldin has a good chance of prevailing even if Biden carried the 1st District. However, this contest is looking considerably more competitive than it did just a month ago."