Carden’s Capitol Corner: Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Popular

Given the polarizing debate over New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposals, I’ve wholly expected Cuomo’s favorability among New Yorkers to, by the end of the whole agonizing process, take a serious hit.

After all, in discussing the governor’s budget cuts with local political activists, I’ve noticed considerable disgruntlement toward Cuomo’s recent track record, especially among progressives who backed his election bid in 2010. Oddly enough, I’ve found conservatives, many of who probably didn’t vote for Cuomo, most willing to embrace his budget proposals. Still, with liberal support soft, I expected a decline in Cuomo approval.

Alas, I was dead wrong.

A new poll conducted by Siena College Research Institute in late March, found Cuomo sitting atop a sterling 69 percent favorability rating, with only 20 percent expressing an unfavorable opinion of him. Such a number places him among the most popular governors in the entire country. Perhaps most notable is Cuomo’s appeal across party and demographics lines. Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all hold favorable views of Cuomo, as do majorities of all age groups, ethnicities, political ideologies (liberal, moderate, conservative) and income brackets. In fact, he’s above 60 percent favorability with every group, sans self-described conservatives and voters aged 18 to 34. The former perhaps stems from social conservatives still wary of the moderate Cuomo, while the latter almost surely relates to the divisiveness over Cuomo’s SUNY cuts.

Still, despite such monumental favorability toward Cuomo, the New York electorate remains lukewarm on the state’s overall direction. This poll found only 43 percent of New Yorkers believing the state is on the “right track,” while a greater 45 percent saw New York as heading in the “wrong direction.” Democrats, self-described liberals and African-Americans were most optimistic, with all other brackets expressing greater pessimism. So, while Independents and Republicans may like Cuomo personally, they aren’t necessarily convinced that he’ll turn this state for the better.

Beyond Cuomo, this poll found New Yorkers rather ho-hum on both the State Assembly and State Senate, with favorability at 30 and 32 percent, respectively. A startling 71 percent of voters supported the so-called“millionaire’s tax,” which was rejected by Cuomo and noticeably absent from the final state budget. New Yorkers also favored medical malpractice reform, championed by state Republicans, by a margin of 53 to 42 percent. In the wake of the Japanese tragedy, a majority of 57 percent opposed building more nuclear power plants in the state.

Finally, the electorate remains friendly toward President Barack Obama, who sits atop 60 percent favorability, with only 32 percent unfavorability. Still, when pressed to support a candidate for the 2012 presidential election, only 49 percent would commit to supporting Obama’s re-election bid, with 43 percent preferring “someone else.” Independents, white voters and Upstate New Yorkers all favored that “someone else.”

This poll, which interviewed 802 New York registered voters, was conducted from March 20 to 23.

Andrew Carden

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