Half of voters want to start with a clean slate

New York Assembly Chamber
Photo by Matt H. Wade


Corruption is a serious problem to 56 percent of voters, but a plurality have never heard of Preet Bharara


Forty-eight percent of registered voters in New York say that all current elected officials should be voted out of office so new officials can start with a clean slate, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Thirty-six percent of voters, on the other hand, say the current Legislature, governor, attorney general and comptroller are capable of ending political corruption in Albany.

Fifty-two percent of upstaters want to start with a clean slate, compared to 43 percent of voters in the suburbs and 47 percent of New York City voters. This sentiment is shared by more than half of older voters, independent voters, and male voters. Sixty-one percent of Republican voters want to clean house this coming election.

Government corruption is a “very serious” problem in New York state today, say 56 percent of voters — the highest number ever on this point — while another 31 percent say it’s “somewhat serious.” However, voters are pessimistic. Fifty percent say Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature will not take steps to improve ethics in state government this year. Thirty-eight percent believe steps will be taken this year to fix the problems that lead to corruption.

“Throw out everyone in Albany, say almost half of New Yorkers. Voters don’t think that the current crowd is capable of cleaning up corruption,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.

Dozens of lawmakers have been prosecuted in recent years for corruption-related charges, with the majority of them using their public office for personal gain. But two high-profile cases in particular led many to believe this would be the year the governor and state lawmakers would have passed sweeping ethics rules to regulate public officials.

Both former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were sentenced in separate federal corruption cases that began in January 2015. In each of the cases, Skelos and Silver used their offices and their positions atop the state Legislature for personal gain.

Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison for extortion, money laundering and honest services fraud. Among other crimes, he accepted large payments from a law firm that specialized in reducing property taxes for New York City landlords and developers. Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison for awarding a $12 million state contract to a company that hired his son.

In the end, a last-minute deal reached in the closing hours of session would strip the pensions of any public officer who is convicted of corruption.

Seventy-eight percent of voters in the latest poll say elected state officials who have been convicted of a felony should lose their pensions. But the policy will not be implemented until the Legislature passes the measure again in 2017 and the voters give it final approval if and when it becomes a ballot question sometime after that.

Forty-eight percent of voters say Gov. Andrew Cuomo is part of the ethics problem plaguing state government. Thirty six percent of voters say he is part of the solution. Cuomo gets a 50 to 40 percent job approval rating, similar to his 51 to 38 percent score in an April 4 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University. Only13 percent of voters give him an A grade for his job as governor. Thirty-three percent of voters give him a grade of B; 26 percent give Cuomo a C; 13 percent a D; and 13 percent an F.

“Almost nine-tenths of voters think corruption is a serious New York problem,” Carroll said. “And, although they give Gov. Andrew Cuomo OK job-approval numbers overall, lots of them think that on corruption he’s part of the problem.”

As for New York’s other statewide elected officials, voters approve 49-to-23 percent of the job Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is doing and approve 39-to-18 percent of the job Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is doing.

The man investigating public corruption in Albany in recent years — Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — gets a 40-to-18 percent approval rating. A full 42 percent of voters don’t know who Bharara is, or don’t know enough to form an opinion about the job he is doing fighting corruption.

“They still haven’t made U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the main scourge of corrupt legislators, a household name. But he’s getting there,” Carroll said.

Twenty-four percent of voters approve of the way the state Legislature is doing its job, compared to 63 percent who disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing. The disapproval rating is higher among voters aged 35 to 49 and among upstate voters.

From July 13 to July 17, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,104 New York state voters, with live interviewers calling land lines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.