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Economy, climate are top priorities for New York voters

McArthur Myers fills out his ballot at an early voting.
Andrew Harnik
McArthur Myers fills out his ballot at an early voting.

New York’s economy has been ranked the top priority to determine their pick of candidates in November’s general election, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Siena Research Institute.

Over half of the 650 New York voters surveyed last week said inflation and cost of living are the most important issue being considered when they go to the ballot. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index increased 6.6% in the state over the past year. Food prices rose 10.2% while energy prices increased 25.7%.

Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said it is important to look at the margins.

“When we look at it by party, economic issues are number one for Democrats but only by a small margin,” Greenberg said. “When it comes to their first choice, threats to democracy are the number one issue."

34% of polled New York voters said crime is a top issue, while 29% emphasized concern for threats to democracy — second for Democrats, while crime is second for Republicans.

Additionally, 55% of voters said they will vote for the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act. In the poll, the proposed funding package received support from 76% of Democrats, 24% of Republicans, and a plurality of independents. The statistics show an increased awareness of climate change, potentially carrying a lot of weight on the ballot.

“I think that the last decade has really illustrated a dramatic change in public awareness and perspective not only about climate change, but about clean water issues,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which lobbied for the proposed state spending.

The bond act includes $650 million for clean water protection, $650 million for land preservation, $1.5 billion to combat the impacts of climate change, and an additional $1 billion for building coastline resistancy.

Its approval by voters would follow other statewide initiatives to decrease its carbon footprint. In 2018, New York implemented a clean transportation plan, which invested $127.7 million to increase the use of clean energy vehicles. In 2019, the state announced a ban on the sale of single-use plastic bags in an effort to protect wildlife. The upcoming budget also raises annual environmental spending by $100 million.

The allocation for clean water initiatives is sure to hit home for most New Yorkers, said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservations Voters, a statewide organization that focuses on politics and advocacy on the environment. The group is leading the Vote Yes for Clean Water and Jobs coalition.

“On Long Island, we’ve had issues with emerging contaminants in our drinking water. Municipal governments need support to make sure that they can upgrade their treatment systems so that New Yorkers are getting safe drinking water,” she said.

The referendum question runs on the back of the ballot, running the risk of voters simply forgetting about its existence. “We’ve launched a massive public education campaign to let people know it’s there, what the purpose of it is, and why it’s important for every single New Yorker,” said Esposito.

Healthcare, education and racial justice were among the other main categories of voter interest. New York’s gubernatorial election is on Nov. 8.

Emily is a former news intern at WSHU.
Lauren is a former news intern at WSHU.