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Poll Offers Good And Bad News For Cuomo

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

A new poll finds that scandals surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo have taken a toll.

While New Yorkers continue to believe the governor 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.

But Siena College spokesman Steve Greenberg said the poll delivers some good news to a governor involved in several scandals, including the 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.

Still, a majority of New Yorkers support the way Cuomo has handled the pandemic so far — 60% to 32% — and slightly more than half, 51%, say he should not step down and can continue to do his job effectively. Greenberg said those opinions have been unchanged for several months.

“Since November, voters have, by a 2-to-1 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 said other bad news in the poll includes the lowest favorability rating ever for Cuomo, with 52% saying 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 15 years, since he’s been governor, attorney general and even before that,” Greenberg said.

Additionally, 44% believe the multiple women who say Cuomo sexually harassed them; 22% do not think the governor sexually harassed anyone; and 34% are undecided. Just a third think the governor should be re-elected 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 coronavirus tests last spring. Cuomo denies he did anything improper in either of those cases.

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

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

Cuomo added 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 said 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.”

He said the governor’s attempts to minimize and deflect “bad stories” also seem to be working in Cuomo’s favor.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.