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Poll Offers Good And Bad News For Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at his briefing May 5, 2020.

A new poll finds that scandals surrounding Governor Andrew Cuomo have taken a toll. While New Yorkers continue to believe the Democrat did a good job leading the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, most believe the multiple women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and do not think the governor should run for office again.  Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says the poll delivers some good news to a governor involved in several scandals, including sexual harassment allegations and accusations that he covered up the number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic. Cuomo is facing investigations by state and federal officials. Most leading politicians in the state, Democrats and Republicans, have called on him to resign.  

But, by a two-to-one margin, New Yorkers support the way Cuomo has handled the pandemic so far, and slightly more than half, 51%, say he should not step down and can continue to do his job effectively. Greenberg says those opinions have been unchanged for several months. 

“Since November, voters have, by a two-to-one margin essentially, liked the job that Governor Cuomo is doing to address the pandemic,” Greenberg said. “With the exception of nursing homes, of course.”  

Seventy percent think the governor did a poor job of making public the number of nursing home deaths.  

Greenberg says other bad news in the poll includes the lowest favorability rating ever for Cuomo. Fifty two percent say they don’t like the governor.  

“That is the worst favorability rating Andrew Cuomo has ever had in a Siena College poll in more than fifteen years, since he’s been governor, attorney general, and even before that,” Greenberg said.  

Forty four percent believe the multiple women who say Cuomo sexually harassed them. Twenty two percent do not think he the governor sexually harassed anyone, and around one-third, 34% are undecided. Just one-third think the governor should be reelected to a fourth term in office, with Democrats split on the issue.  

The governor is also involved in two other controversies. He’s accused of potentially violating the state’s public officers’ law when he used staff to help him write a book on his management of the pandemic, and of favoring family and friends with access to scarce COVID tests at the height of the pandemic last spring. Cuomo denies he did anything improper in either of those cases.

The governor, asked about the poll results in a press briefing Monday, says he’s baffled by the findings. 

“I don’t know what that means,” said Cuomo. “I don’t know how people can say ‘I think you’re doing a good job’, but the favorable goes down.”

Cuomo adds that he does not “put too much stock” into poll results.   

Since the scandals broke, the governor has conducted a number of carefully crafted events, often at mass vaccination sites. They feature longtime friends and allies, and the small number of elected officials who have not called for his resignation. Media is barred from the events, but invited guests praise Cuomo for his leadership abilities.  

In Zoom or phone calls with reporters, the governor accepts just a handful of questions, and rarely answers ones from journalists who are assigned to cover him. 

Greenberg says the damage control strategy has so far been effective.  

“He wants to continue to focus attention on the pandemic,” Greenberg said. “One, it’s where the voters think he’s doing well, and two, we all know the pandemic is top of mind for virtually every New Yorker.”  

Greenberg says the governor’s attempts to minimize and deflect “bad stories” also seems to be working in Cuomo’s favor.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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