Siena Poll: WFP challenge would damage Cuomo’s margin in November

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ALBANY—As Governor Andrew Cuomo heads into the spring and summer campaign seasons, he holds a commanding 30-point lead in a hypothetical matchup against Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, but that lead would be cut in half if a liberal third-party candidate enters the race, according to a newly released Siena Poll.

If Cuomo faces Astorino alone, he would likely win with 58 percent of the vote to Astorino’s 28 percent. A third-party candidate could claim as much as 24 percent of the total vote, leaving Cuomo with 39 percent of the total, much less than the landslide victory he’s been hoping to achieve in his bid for a second term.

If a hypothetical third-party candidate on the left becomes a reality, in other words, it could pose a real headache for Cuomo. In recent weeks, the Working Families Party has been threatening to nominate its own candidate for governor, declining so far to promise Cuomo its endorsement or party line in advance of his re-election campaign. 

Cuomo had the WFP line in 2010. 

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The Siena poll shows that if the WFP runs a candidate perceived to be more liberal or progressive than the governor, it would slash his likely margin of victory in half.

Cuomo’s favorability rating stands at 57 percent, still high for a sitting governor, but his negatives have also been climbing.

About 38 percent of voters polled hold an unfavorable opinion of the governor, a rate that has been inching up over the past eight months. A 63 percent majority of voters think the governor has been effective in office, but the number of voters dissatisfied with his performance has increased, with 30 percent saying they believe he has not been effective during his first three years in office.

About half of voters say they will likely vote to re-elect Cuomo, while 49 percent say they either prefer someone else or don’t have an opinion.

The poll included other mixed news for the governor.

Earlier this month, Cuomo was widely criticized when he announced he would disband the Moreland Commission, the panel he created in 2013 to investigate public corruption, in exchange for lawmakers passing new ethics reforms as part of the state budget.

In a rare and very public rebuke of that decision, Southern District U.S. attorney Preet Bharara called Cuomo’s decision to shutter the panel “premature,” and asked the commission to hand over its files to his own office for further investigation.

Nearly two-thirds of voters, 63 percent, said they sided with Bharara in the disagreement, while just 23 percent said they believed Cuomo was justified in his decision to close the commission. Most voters, 84 percent, said they believed corruption is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem in New York state government, and a 53 percent majority said the ethics reforms Cuomo got in exchange for agreeing to end the Moreland Commission were a “bad compromise.”

The poll also asked voters to react to ongoing policy debates roiling the state Legislature.

Voters polled were asked to weigh in on Common Core Standards, which have become a flashpoint in the governor’s race in New York and have also become the staging ground for a national political battle. The Siena poll showed that voters are largely familiar with the Common Core requirements, but have widely varying opinions on the standards’ difficulty and effectiveness.

More than half of voters said they were either “not very confident” or “not confident at all” that Common Core would ready students for college or careers after they graduated high school. And roughly 71 percent said that changes in public education over the past three years had either sent the state in the wrong direction or had had no impact on the quality of education.

Voters said nearly 2 to 1 they would rather see the state legalize medical marijuana than go ahead with the governor’s limited proposal to allow some hospitals to dispense it. But a majority, 52 percent, still oppose legalizing recreational use of the drug.

New Yorkers are still split on the issue of hydrofracking, with 41 percent in favor of it and 43 percent opposed.

The poll, conducted between April 12 and 17, surveyed 772 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.