Loudonville, NY. ( Siena research release ) Governor Andrew Cuomo is viewed favorably by more than three-quarters of New York voters and overall nearly three-quarters support his proposed budget, according to a new Siena (College) Research Institute poll of registered voters released today. While several specific proposals in the Executive Budget have strong to overwhelming support, reducing spending for SUNY and CUNY is opposed by 56 percent of voters, and reducing state aid to school districts by $1.5 billion is opposed by 64 percent.
Nearly two-thirds of voters think the personal income tax surcharge on those earning more than $200,000 per year should be continued. When asked, as many voters would prefer continuing the surcharge be the first step in closing the state’s budget gap as would prefer cuts in Medicaid, the state workforce and education combined. And in a dramatic turnaround, for the first time since 2007, more voters now believe the state is headed on the right track than those who believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.
Cuomo Viewed More Favorably Than Ever, Even as Voters Digest His Proposed Budget
“The honeymoon continues. Despite what Governor Cuomo described as a painful budget – or maybe because of it – 77 percent of voters say they have a favorable view of Cuomo, compared to only 16 percent who view him unfavorably,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “Even 70 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of conservatives have a favorable view of the Democratic governor. It certainly seems that his traveling the state to talk to voters about his budget has helped his favorability rating, which is up from 70-17 percent last month.”
A majority of voters, 57 percent, say he’s doing an excellent or good job as governor, compared to 33 percent who say he’s doing a fair or poor job, up from last month’s 44-28 percent job performance rating.
“After six weeks in office, New Yorkers like the man, and the job that he’s doing as Governor. Most voters continue to view Cuomo as an ideological moderate, and by a four-to-one margin, they continue to trust the Governor more than the Legislature to do the right thing for New York,” Greenberg said.
Nearly Half of Voters Give Cuomo Budget an ‘A’ or ‘B’ Grade & 72 Percent Say They Support His Budget
“When asked to grade the Governor’s proposed budget, eight percent gave it an ‘A’ and 39 percent gave it a ‘B,’ while 27 percent said it earned a ‘C,’ and six percent a ‘D.’ Only three percent gave the budget a failing grade,” Greenberg said. “Then, after going through a series of specific questions about the Governor’s budget proposals, voters were asked whether they support or oppose the Cuomo budget, and 72 percent said they support it – 21 percent strongly – while 25 percent oppose it – eight percent strongly.
“At least two-thirds of voters from every party and region currently say they at least somewhat support Cuomo’s budget, with Republicans more supportive than Democrats and upstaters more supportive than New York City voters,” Greenberg said.
Voters Support Seven Cuomo Budget Proposals, Four Strongly; Oppose Ed. & Higher Ed. Cuts
“On the $1.5 billion cut to local school districts, voters give a resounding ‘no.’ And while voters from every region and demographic group oppose that cut, Democrats are much more opposed than Republicans and independents, and younger voters are much more opposed than are older voters,” Greenberg said.
“Reducing Medicaid spending produced the closest divide among voters with 51 percent of voters supporting the cut – including majorities of Republicans and independents, upstate voters and those with household incomes of more than $50,000 – and 45 percent opposing it – including majorities of Democrats, liberals, African American voters and those with household incomes below $50,000,” Greenberg said.
Education is Voters’ Least Favorite Cut but They Are Divided on Whether It Will Hurt Education Quality
Voters were given four choices and asked which would be their first step to help close the budget deficit. Nearly half, 49 percent, said retaining the income tax surcharge on New Yorkers earning more than $200,000; 22 percent said enacting changes to the Medicaid program to save $3 billion; 20 percent said freezing state worker wages and potentially reducing the state work force by nearly 10,000; and, five percent said reducing school aid by $1.5 billion. When asked which they would least like to see enacted, 45 percent said the school aid cut.
“Of four large-dollar proposals to help close the state’s budget deficit, cutting aid to school districts is clearly the voters’ least favorite,” Greenberg said. “On the other hand, voters are nearly evenly divided when asked to decide whether the Governor’s proposal will hurt education or not. With the proposed cut ‘the quality of students’ education will be seriously hurt,’ 49 percent of voters say. However, 47 percent say that there’s ‘plenty of waste and duplication’ in school districts that can ‘absorb the cuts and students will not suffer.’ A majority of Democrats, African Americans, voters from New York City and voters under 35-years-old think the cuts will hurt education, while a majority of Republicans and voters 55-years-old and older think students will not suffer.
“Although voters were closely divided on whether or not they support the Governor’s proposed cut in Medicaid, an overwhelming 70 percent of voters say ‘we can tighten our belt and find savings without people suffering.’ Only 27 percent said that the Medicaid cost cutting proposals ‘would have disastrous health care consequences.’ And while 36 percent of voters want the Legislature to reject both the Governor’s health care and education cuts even if it means raising taxes, 31 percent want the Governor’s cuts in both enacted and another 28 percent want the cuts enacted in one area and rejected in the other,” Greenberg said.
Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Extending the Income Tax Surcharge on NYers Earning At Least $200,000
“By a nearly two-to-one margin – 65-33 percent –voters want the tax rate increase on those earning at least $200,000 a year continued, rather than see the surcharge expire at the end of this year as it is scheduled to do,” Greenberg said. “While 71 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents want to see the tax continued, so do 53 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of conservatives.
“And it’s not just low earners who want the tax extended on ‘the other guy.’ While 64 percent of voters with household incomes of less than $50,000 want the tax continued, a similar 61 percent of voters with household incomes of more than $100,000 want the tax extended as well,” Greenberg said.
“Additionally, 49 percent of voters want the income tax on wealthier New Yorkers continued as a first step in closing the deficit, compared to the 47 percent combined who chose either Medicaid cuts, state workforce savings or education cuts as their preferred first step,” Greenberg said.
After More than Three Years, More Voters Now Say State is Headed on the Right Track
“For the first time since October 2007, more voters are optimistic than pessimistic about the direction of New York, with 47 percent saying the state is on the right track and 39 percent saying the state is headed in the wrong direction. Just two months ago, only 27 percent said the state was on the right track and 60 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction,” Greenberg said. “By a narrow 44-42 percent margin, even upstate voters say the state is headed on the right track, up from 28-59 percent last month.”
Voters Have Mixed – But Slightly Favorable – View of Three Big Unions & Business Council
“Three unions opposed to cuts in the Governor’s budget and large historic spenders on ads attacking previous budgets all have slightly more voters viewing them favorably than unfavorably,” Greenberg said. “CSEA has a 38-35 percent favorability rating, NYSUT’s is 43-39 percent and 1199/SEIU’s is 37-31 percent. On the other side of the budget fight, the Business Council of New York State has a similar 31-25 percent favorability rating.”
Gillibrand Hits Highest Favorability Rating & Has Strong ‘Re-elect’ Number
“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, after her first statewide win, has a 57-18 percent favorability rating, up from 50-24 percent in November, and her highest rating ever,” Greenberg said. “And a year and a half away from facing voters again, this time for a full six-year term, 52 percent of voters, including a plurality of Republicans, say they are prepared to re-elect her, while 29 percent would prefer ‘someone else.’ and 19 percent are undecided.”
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This SRI survey was conducted February 7-10, 2011 by telephone calls to 801 New York State registered voters. It has a margin of error of + 3.5 percentage points. Data was statistically adjusted by age, party, gender, and region to ensure representativeness. Sampling was conducted via random digit dialing weighted to reflect known population patterns. SRI, an independent, non-partisan research institute, subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research Code of Professional Ethics and Practices.
Siena Research Institute
Siena College, Loudonville, NY