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Poll finds Hochul's job approval faltering with 6 weeks left in the legislative session

New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Ashley Hupfl
New York Governor Kathy Hochul

A new poll finds that voter confidence in the ability of New York Governor Kathy Hochul to do her job is continuing to slip. The news comes as the state legislature returns to the Capitol for the final six weeks of the legislative session.

Many New Yorkers still like Hochul after her first eight months in office, according to the Siena College poll, which finds her approval rating at 44%.

She replaced former Governor Andrew Cuomo, when he resigned last August over multiple scandals.

But, Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says voters increasingly disapprove of how the governor is handling a number of issues, with around two-thirds saying she is doing a fair or poor job managing crime and the economy. Hochul’s job approval rating, which had been slowly declining since January, fell 10 points in the past month. Just 36 % think she is doing a good job, while 57% think the Democrat is not.

“21 points underwater, the lowest it’s ever been,” Greenberg said. “So that’s got to concern her.”

The perception that Hochul is not doing enough on crime comes despite the governor’s successful push to get the legislature to pull back some of the elements of the 2019 criminal justice reforms, which eliminated most forms of cash bail. Some gun-related crimes are once again eligible for bail, and judges can take more factors into consideration when deciding whether to set bail for a defendant. Greenberg says voters, who view crime as the number one problem facing the state, overwhelmingly support those changes, 67% to 14%.

Greenberg says the changes are supported by the majority of registered Democrats and Republicans, upstate and downstate residents, and Black and white New Yorkers.

But he says most of those asked remain skeptical that the new laws will actually reduce crime.

Meanwhile, there are just 19 days left in the legislative session, and a number of issues remain unresolved. Passage of the items could hurt or help Hochul and state lawmakers, who also face the voters this year.

Among them, are several additional criminal justice issues, including a measure to allow older New Yorkers serving long prison sentences to be released after 15 years, with special consideration given if their health is failing. Senator Brad Hoylman is the sponsor of the measure, known as Elder Parole, spoke at a rally.

“10,000 individuals who are aged 55 or older and who have served at least fifteen years, they deserve an automatic parole hearing,” Hoylman said to cheers.

In addition, a bill known as Clean Slate would seal criminal records for people convicted of some crimes. Supporters say they could then move forward with their lives and have access to jobs and higher education after they have completed their punishment. The measure was approved in the Senate Codes Committee on Monday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is seeking to extend a measure that give him more control over policy in the city’s schools.

And a measure to make it harder to evict tenants, known as Good Cause legislation, is also being discussed. A related measure, known as 421-a, a tax break given to real estate developers in exchange for building affordable housing, is up for renewal. Critics say it’s too generous to developers and does not lead to a significant increase in affordable homes.

One issue that does not appear to be harming Hochul’s reputation with voters, is the indictment of her former lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin on corruption charges. Benjamin denies any wrongdoing. Despite publicity over the scandal, which led to Benjamin’s resignation, 67% of those surveyed have never heard of Benjamin or don’t know enough to form an opinion.

“Voters know something happened,” said Greenberg. “But I don’t think Brian Benjamin, per se, is the issue for her.”

While New Yonkers might not know all of the details about the former lieutenant governor, who could face a prison term if convicted, 65% believe Hochul is doing a poor job fulfilling her pledge to restore trust in government.

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.