Despite Scandal, Cuomo Still Has the Support of Democratic Voters

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been in dire straits for weeks.

Most of New York’s major politicians have now called on him to resign, and he doesn’t exactly have the full confidence of his state’s voters, as a Siena College poll released yesterday showed. By an 18-point margin, respondents said they didn’t want him to run for a fourth term next year, as he had been widely expected to do, and his favorability rating is as low as it’s ever been.

But as harsh as those results might seem, the survey actually contained a remarkable amount of less-than-terrible news for the embattled governor. Just 35 percent of New York voters said he should “immediately resign,” while 50 percent said he shouldn’t. (Another 15 percent weren’t sure.)

And only 34 percent said they doubted he would be able to continue governing effectively; 48 percent said he would be, the poll found.

A decisive majority, 57 percent, said they were satisfied with the apology Cuomo gave this month, while just 32 percent said they weren’t.

Strange bedfellows

Politics has been said to make strange bedfellows, and in this case Cuomo’s most reliable supporters are some of the groups one might normally assume to be the most bothered by sexual harassment claims: namely, women and self-described liberal voters.

Women voters — who trend more Democratic than men — were five points more likely than their male counterparts to say the governor shouldn’t resign (52 percent, compared with 47 percent). They were also five points more likely to call his apology satisfactory (59 percent, versus 54 percent of men).

Among liberals, a whopping 69 percent said they were satisfied with how he had addressed the allegations. Just 19 percent were dissatisfied.

Cuomo’s favorability has fallen the furthest among Democrats, from 78 percent in a Siena poll last month to 59 percent now. Thirty percent of Democratic voters in New York now hold a negative view of their governor. Still, that’s a broadly favorable rating.

The Siena poll was conducted throughout last week, with a vast majority of interviews taking place before many high-profile politicians in the state called on Cuomo to resign, including nearly the entire New York delegation in Congress. And late last week the State Assembly opened an impeachment investigation focused on Cuomo’s actions toward women.

That investigation could turn up more damaging claims against him — and it is possible that more allegations could trickle out in news reports, as they have over the past two weeks, putting even greater pressure on the governor to step aside.

But it’s clear from the poll that many New York voters don’t think his actions warrant booting him from office — at least not yet.

Cuomo’s pandemic ‘capital’

Don Levy, the director of polling at Siena, said in an interview that the durability of Cuomo’s support appeared to be driven largely by his very public role guiding the state through the coronavirus pandemic — and now that vaccines are being widely distributed, he may be reaping rewards.

Levy cited “the good will and capital that he built up with months of daily appearances, press conferences, PowerPoints,” and pointed to a finding in the poll that 65 percent of New York voters said the worst of the pandemic was now behind us — the first time a majority have said this in a Siena survey.

“You have to surmise that a sizable number of New Yorkers credit Andrew Cuomo with getting us to this point,” Levy said.

Understand the Scandals Challenging Gov. Cuomo’s Leadership

The three-term governor is confronting two crises simultaneously:

    • Several women, including current and former members of his administration, have accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior. He has refused to resign. An independent inquiry, overseen by the New York State attorney general, may take months.
    • The Cuomo administration is also under fire for undercounting the number of nursing-home deaths caused by Covid-19 in the first half of 2020, a scandal that deepened after a recent Times investigation found that aides rewrote a health department report to hide the real number. Several senior health officials resigned recently in response to the governor’s overall handling of the pandemic, including the vaccine rollout.
    • On March 11, the State Assembly announced it would open an impeachment investigation. Democrats in both the State Legislature and in New York’s congressional delegation called on Mr. Cuomo to resign, with some saying he has lost the capacity to govern.

    Of course, his handling of the pandemic has not been without hiccups. Last month, Cuomo publicly accepted responsibility for his role in suppressing the official count of Covid-19-related deaths in New York’s nursing homes. Asked about a range of issues related to the pandemic, voters gave the governor positive marks on how he had handled all except one: publishing “all data” regarding Covid-related deaths in nursing homes.

    Still, his handling of the pandemic continues to be his strong suit. Sixty percent of voters in the Siena poll approved of how he had handled the virus. That’s his lowest number yet on this question, but still almost twice as high as the share who said they disapproved.

    In February 2020, a month before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and Cuomo ordered a statewide shutdown, New York voters were slightly more likely to say the state was headed in the wrong direction than to say it was on the right track. But as soon as the pandemic began, and Cuomo positioned himself as a frontline fighter against the virus, that flipped.

    The next month, New York voters said by more than 2-to-1 that things were headed in the right direction in their state, and their views have not flipped negative again since. (By comparison, New York voters’ views of where the nation at large was headed remained generally negative all of last year.)

    This time four years ago, as Cuomo neared the end of his second term, New York voters were split on whether he should run again. Forty-eight percent said they’d like to see him re-elected, and 41 percent said they’d prefer that someone else take the reins, according to a Siena poll at the time. Ultimately, Cuomo easily fended off a primary challenge, and won re-election handily.

    Things are looking less favorable for him now, with just 34 percent of the state’s voters — and only 46 percent of Democrats — saying they’d like the opportunity to re-elect him. But Cuomo, despite being broadly disliked by many of his colleagues in Albany, has weathered storms in the past.

    “He’s taken a hit,” Levy said. “And could he go lower? Absolutely. But right now, public opinion seems to be saying: ‘I’m prepared to wait this thing out for a little while.’”

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