NEW YORK Bill de Blasio vaulted to the lead in the Democratic primary race for New York City mayor, finding strong support among critics of the "stop and frisk" police tactic which a judge has found unconstitutional, a poll released on Tuesday said.
The Quinnipiac University poll showed him with support from 30 percent of those surveyed compared with 24 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has been considered the front-runner for much of the campaign.
"A few weeks ago, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio looked like an also-ran. Today, he's the leader of the pack, and a winner in the runoffs. Follow the bouncing ball, folks. This line-up keeps changing," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
Former Comptroller and 2009 Democratic candidate William Thompson followed with 22 percent. Former congressman Anthony Weiner fell to 10 percent and current Comptroller John Liu had 6 percent, Quinnipiac said.
De Blasio is the city's public advocate, a position created to counter the mayor's powers.
Weiner led the field with 26 percent in the July 24 Quinnipiac poll, just before the most recent revelations that he had been exchanging lewd messages on the Internet. Quinn regained her lead with 27 percent in the July 29 poll, when de Blasio was second with 21 percent and Weiner fell to fourth with 16 percent.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination would be considered a heavy favorite against any Republican in the November 5 election to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose third and final term expires on January 1.
The primary is set for September 10 and the top two candidates will compete in an October 1 run-off unless someone wins a majority.
In a hypothetical run-off, de Blasio led Quinn by 54 percent to 38 percent and was ahead of Thompson by 50 percent to 41 percent, the poll found.
Sixty percent of likely Democratic primary voters said "stop and frisk" was excessive and harasses innocent people. Among those critical of the police tactic, 34 percent back de Blasio, with 24 percent for Thompson and 22 percent for Quinn, Quinnipiac said.
A U.S. judge on Monday ruled the tactic violated the constitutional rights of minorities and ordered reforms.
Quinnipiac surveyed 579 likely Democratic primary voters on August 7-12 and said the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Richard Chang)