Poll: Cuomo’s Moreland-awareness gap

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Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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ALBANY—Three weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration was engulfed in scandal over his office’s handling of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, only a third of New Yorkers have heard of the now-defunct ethics panel.

At the same time, the percentage of voters who believe corruption is a “serious problem” in state government reached 86 percent, according to the results of a new Siena poll published Monday.

The poll, conducted over four days last week, is the first to account for the breadth of negative coverage Cuomo’s received in the weeks since the publication of a 6,000-word story in the New York Times on July 23 that detailed the administration's handling of the ethics commission, which the governor abruptly shuttered in April this year.

Another poll released last week was conducted just days after the first story broke, and showed Cuomo’s favorability rating dropping six points to 53 percent in the immediate wake of the scandal.

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The Siena poll showed two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, are still not familiar with the Moreland Commission and its work, and an even greater percentage, 81 percent, either don’t know or don’t have an opinion about U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor investigating the circumstances surrounding the Moreland Commission’s closure.

But the scandal is garnering some attention.

In April 2014, about 6 percent of voters said they were following news about the commission “very closely.” Monday’s poll showed that number had increased to 11 percent who are now paying close attention to the scandal.

About 27 percent of voters are following Moreland news “somewhat closely” and 24 percent are watching it “not very closely.”

Those numbers have ticked slightly upward from April, when 24 percent were watching Moreland news “somewhat closely” and 31 percent were following “not very closely.”

Women seem to be paying less attention to the Moreland fight than men—the poll showed 19 percent of men surveyed are watching Moreland “very closely,” compared to just 5 percent of women.

Cuomo is also losing ground with male voters, while he’s gaining with women.

In April, 55 percent of men saw the governor favorably, but the most recent poll showed that number has dropped to 49 percent, while 46 percent of male voters now see him negatively.

In April 2014, 58 percent of women voters held a positive view of Cuomo. That number has jumped, with 65 percent of females surveyed saying they hold a favorable opinion of the governor.

More than half of voters—63 percent—said they didn’t have enough information about Cuomo aides’ actions to say whether or not their alleged interference with the Moreland Commission was criminal or just inappropriate. About 13 percent said they thought it was criminal, while 16 percent said they thought it was inappropriate, but didn’t rise to the level of a crime.

Eight percent of voters polled said the swirl of Moreland news would make them more likely to vote for Cuomo, while about 30 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for him. Fifty-three percent said Moreland wouldn’t have an impact on their vote.

The poll showed the share of voters who see Cuomo’s actions as governor as benefiting his own career rather than his constituents is climbing.

Only 41 percent of voters said they believed Cuomo made decisions based on what is best for New Yorkers, down from 49 percent in March and April of 2013. And a plurality, 52 percent, said they believed Cuomo makes decisions based on what is best for his political future rather than what is best for New Yorkers.

Voters increasingly believe that corruption is a “very serious” problem in the state, the poll showed, with 47 percent saying they now believe corruption is a “very serious” problem in New York state government, an increase from 41 percent who felt that way in April 2014.

Cuomo’s favorability ratings did not decline though. Instead they are hovering near where they landed in spring this year, at their lowest levels since he took office in January 2011, with 57 percent of New Yorkers saying they have a favorable view of the governor.

Recent Siena polls taken in March and April of this year showed the governor with 58 percent and 57 percent approval ratings, respectively.

The latest Siena poll also showed the governor’s unfavorability ratings hovering near the high levels they reached in April this year, when 38 percent of voters held an unfavorable opinion of the governor. The latest poll showed 36 percent of those surveyed held a negative view of Cuomo. Both numbers are among the highest unfavorability ratings Cuomo’s garnered since he became governor.

Cuomo’s favorability rating is still very high overall, especially compared to polls about his two predecessors, David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer, both of whom ended their years as governor with unfavorability ratings greater than the percentage of voters who viewed them positively.

Cuomo’s favorability is especially high among Democrats. Sixty-nine percent of them see him positively, and 26 percent hold an unfavorable opinion of him. Forty percent of the state’s Republicans hold a favorable opinion of the governor, while 55 percent have an unfavorable view. And 54 percent of moderate voters still think highly of him, while 37 percent of moderates have an unfavorable opinion of him, the poll showed.

About half the voters surveyed—51 percent—said they’d re-elect Cuomo for governor this year, when given the choice between him and “someone else,” while 38 percent said they’d prefer the anonymous candidate over the sitting governor. Independent voters showed less certainty than Democrats, 64 percent of whom said they’d vote to re-elect Cuomo in a contest against somebody else. About 47 percent of independents said they’d actually prefer the anonymous candidate, while only 43 percent said they’d vote for Cuomo again over a challenger.