Ex-M.T.A. Chief and Mayoral Candidate Is Unknown to Many Voters, Poll Says

Despite his leadership in restoring service quickly to the subways after Hurricane Sandy, Joseph J. Lhota, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, still hasn’t made an impression on many New York City voters, according a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Mr. Lhota, a deputy mayor under Rudolph W. Giuliani, is expected to enter the 2013 mayor’s race as a Republican as early as this week, largely on the strength of his much-praised handling of last year’s storm. Already, many political analysts believe that he is the favorite in a crowded Republican primary, though he would likely face an uphill battle in a general election because Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city.

But Mr. Lhota remains an unknown quantity to the vast majority of New Yorkers, according to the poll. Sixty-nine percent said that they did not know enough about him to say whether they liked him or not, and of those who did, 19 percent assessed him favorably, and 11 did not.

Only 36 percent of those surveyed approved of Mr. Lhota’s performance at the transit agency, while 46 percent disapproved. That number was virtually the same as in a previous poll taken in November, shortly after the storm ravaged the region.

The impact of Mr. Lhota’s association with Mr. Giuliani is difficult to forecast. Forty-eight percent of voters viewed Mr. Giuliani favorably, and 43 percent viewed him unfavorably. Only 42 percent said that the Giuliani endorsement would be a plus, and 37 percent who said it would be minus.

On the bright side for Mr. Lhota, most of the other candidates were equally unfamiliar to voters. Among Republicans, the least known candidate was Tom Allon, a community newspaper publisher who started in the Democratic primary but switched parties last year; 92 percent of voters said that they hadn’t heard enough about him. Ninety percent also said that they hadn’t heard enough about George T. McDonald, an advocate for the homeless who plans to run in the Republican primary.

“Who are those guys?” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Almost no one knows the Republicans who say they want to be mayor.”

He added that Mr. Lhota “is far from a household name.”

Among Democrats, roughly half of those surveyed said that they didn’t know enough about Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; William C. Thompson Jr., a former comptroller; and John C. Liu, the current comptroller. By contrast, 54 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, while 18 percent had an unfavorable view of her, and 26 percent did not know enough to express an opinion.

The survey of 1,332 New York City voters was conducted by phone between Jan. 8 and 14 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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