Cuomo, Legislature enjoy high marks from voters as session begins

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Progressive agenda gets strong support from voters; pay raises for lawmakers and other officials is unpopular across all demographics

As he prepares to deliver his policy agenda and Executive Budget for 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a 51-to-43 percent favorability rating among registered voters, up from a negative 45-49 percent favorability rating in November, according to a new Siena College poll.

Meanwhile, the Assembly has a 48-to-32 percent favorability rating – its best ever – up from negative 40-to-43 percent in June, and the Senate has a 49-to-38 percent favorability rating, just shy of its best ever, up from negative 41-to-45 percent in June.

“As he begins his third term, Andrew Cuomo moves back into positive territory, with a small majority of voters, 51 percent, viewing him favorably, although it’s a far cry from the 70 percent favorability rating he had beginning his first term and even the 60 percent favorability rating he had beginning his second term,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “More than two-thirds of Democrats view Cuomo favorably, while independents are divided and three-quarters of Republicans view him unfavorably.

When asked which issue should be the governor’s top priority for 2019, 18 percent of registered voters identified infrastructure improvements and another 18 percent said health care should be the top priorities this year. Seventeen percent of those polled identified taxes as a top priority, followed by education (15 percent); jobs (12 percent); ethics reform in government (11 percent); and criminal justice reform (5 percent).

A number of the governor’s progressive agenda reforms — likely to pass this year thanks to a Democratic-controlled Senate and Assembly — are enjoying strong support from registered voters.

For example, 56 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing recreational marijuana in New York; 63 percent support re-codifying state abortion laws to make them consistent with Roe v. Wade; 59 percent support eliminating monetary bail for those facing misdemeanor and non-violent felonies; and 77 percent support passing the Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for legal actions by those who were sexually abused as a child.

According to the poll of 805 registered voters released on Monday, 58 percent support the Dream Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to receive financial aid for college; 75 percent of New Yorkers support extending the waiting period for purchasing a gun, from three days to 10 days; and 68 percent support legislation to provide new legal protections for transgender New Yorkers.

“Clearly, the governor’s efforts to highlight his opposition to the President and push what he calls ‘the most progressive agenda’ in state history is resonating with New Yorkers since more now call him a liberal and fewer call him a moderate or conservative than ever before,” Greenberg said. “While his job performance rating is up from the middle of last year, it still remains under water, with 43 percent saying he’s doing a good or excellent job as governor, compared to 56 percent rating his job performance as only fair or poor.”

A number of voting and election reforms have already been introduced in the Legislature. Fifty-nine percent of New Yorkers want to make Election Day a state holiday to make it easier to get to the polls. Sixty-six percent want to ban corporate campaign contributions in New York elections. Sixty percent want to eliminate the so-called “LLC loophole” that allows corporations or individuals operating as an LLC to donate almost unlimited amounts of money to candidates in New York.

Another key initiative, making the 2 percent property tax cap permanent, gets strong support with 65 percent of New Yorkers backing the plan and only 21 percent opposed to it.

New Yorkers do not like the recommendations of a pay commission that proposed raising the salaries of statewide elected officials and legislators, while limiting outside income and stipends for state lawmakers.

Fifty-seven percent of New York voters disapprove of the legislative pay raise from $79,500 to $130,000 over the next three years. And 80 percent of New Yorkers oppose raising the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state comptroller and agency heads by approximately 40 percent over the next three years.

“Although Democrats are evenly divided about the pay commission’s recent recommendation to raise legislative pay, even as it imposes limits on outside income and vastly reduces the number of legislative leadership stipends, 78 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independents disapprove,” Greenberg said. “Forty-nine percent of New York City voters, 56 percent of downstate suburbanites and 68 percent of upstaters disapprove of the pay raise.

“When it comes to the Legislature approving a raise for the governor and other state leaders, New Yorkers overwhelmingly say you shouldn’t do it,” Greenberg said. “That includes nearly three-quarters of Democrats and about 90 percent of Republicans and independents.”

Overall, New Yorkers polled last week say the state is on the “right track” by a margin of 49-40 percent. Thirty-nine percent of voters call the state’s fiscal condition “fair” with 27 percent calling it “good, 24 percent calling it “poor,” and 4 percent calling it “excellent.”

The Siena College Poll was conducted January 6–10 by telephone calls conducted in English to 805 New York State registered voters. Respondent sampling was initiated by asking for the youngest male in the household. It has an overall margin of error of 4.1 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting.