Half of New Yorkers Want Cuomo to Stay Despite Scandals

A new poll out Monday said half of New York voters don’t think Andrew Cuomo should resign, emboldening him and his supporters as the scandal-ridden, three term governor faces an impeachment investigation and calls to step down from dozens of lawmakers in his own party.

The Democratic governor’s approval rating has sunk to its lowest point in the Siena College poll since taking office in 2011, with only 43% of New York registered voters having a favorable view of him, however. That’s down from 56% in February and a high of 77% reached last year during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the poll.

Cuomo, 63, has hit the low mark twice before. Now, only a third of voters believe he should seek a fourth term, the poll said.

His standing with everyday New Yorkers has severely diminished after seven women accused him of sexual misconduct and inappropriate workplace behavior, as well as accusations that his administration covered up Covid nursing home deaths. But the fact that Cuomo’s held on to half the electorate shows that months of prime-time television appearances and praise by President Joe Biden has burnished Cuomo’s reputation with voters and that compelling him to step down won’t be that easy.

“Voters appear to be able to compartmentalize how they feel about Cuomo,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “While their views on him generally -- favorability, job performance, re-elect -- took a significant hit this month, voters’ views on Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic remain largely positive.”

Half of New Yorkers Want Cuomo to Stay Despite Scandals

Cuomo’s public-opinion polls are significant because the governor has steadfastly refused to quit despite calls by Democratic leaders in the New York Legislature, a majority of the U.S. House delegation and both senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Perhaps the most significant finding is that a clear majority, 61% of polled voters who are Democrats, said he should not resign.

The latest poll was conducted March 8-12 among 805 registered New York voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Biden hasn’t asked for the governor to step down. On Monday, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president hasn’t spoken to Cuomo recently but believes there should be an investigation into the governor’s behavior. It’s up to New York to determine “if he still has the confidence of the people in the state,” she said. The “focus from here, from the federal government, is of course supporting that independent investigation, which we adamantly do.”

Investigations Begin

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Monday that the Judiciary Committee’s investigation, which could result in an impeachment, is “very broad,” and could look at issues beyond the harassment allegations. He said the committee is expected to announce the firm that will conduct the investigation and that the state would pay for it. He said he was uncertain how long the review might take. “To say that you have to come back with a decision in a week, or two weeks, or a month, would be unfair to the process of an investigation” he said.

Separately, a former Cuomo aide who has accused the governor of sexually harassing her said she spoke on Monday with investigators who are part of the probe led by two attorneys selected by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo has denied her claims.

Charlotte Bennett, 25, spoke to investigators for more than four hours and shared 120 pages of records and documents to “corroborate her accusations against governor Cuomo and his senior staff,” according to a statement from her lawyer Debra Katz.

She said Bennett detailed claims of sexual harassment against Cuomo, as well as a “sexually hostile workplace,” that was part of a “deliberate effort to create rivalries and tension among female staffers on whom he bestowed attention.”

Projection of Confidence

Cuomo on Friday said that what former aides had alleged “didn’t happen” and that he wouldn’t resign based on the lawmakers’ calls to step down because he was “not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people.”

By Monday, he appeared almost jubilant after the poll results were released during a press conference held at a soon-to-open vaccine site on Long Island. During a live briefing closed to reporters, Cuomo cracked jokes and focused his comments on vaccine delivery. He didn’t openly address the scandals or calls for his resignation, but he was flanked by supporters who lavished praise on the governor and thanked him for his leadership in bringing more shots to their communities.

Later, his administration issued a news release in the wake of reports in the Washington Post and New York Times that Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s vaccine czar, had contacted local leaders to gauge their support. Some complained they felt their supply of life-saving Covid shots was on the line.

“Larry’s conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution -- he would never link political support to public health decisions,” Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s acting counsel, said in the statement.

At an Impasse

State Democratic Chairman Jay S. Jacobs, a longtime supporter of Cuomo, said on Monday that the poll numbers, along with conversations with other Democratic county chairs, showed that it was time for the state to get back to work. “Most New Yorkers and an overwhelming number of Democrats want an investigation before making judgment,” he said in a statement.

In a subsequent phone interview Jacobs said the poll was an important gauge of public opinion because “everyone has said what they have to say. The lawmakers, the governor have all had their say,” he said. “We got to an impasse, where a group of people wanted him to resign and he said ‘no thank you,’ so now where do we go from here?“

Jacobs said the state has to “move forward and continue to work together regardless of this matter because there are bigger issues to tackle and with the investigations we know this matter will resolved eventually.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his attacks on Cuomo, saying Monday that reports that a top Cuomo adviser was making calls to link vaccine supply to political support was the “definition of corruption.”

De Blasio said he hasn’t spoken to the governor in weeks and that he hasn’t seen any effort to reduce the vaccine supply in New York in retaliation for his demands that the governor quit. Still, he said the city hasn’t received its fair share of vaccines. Throughout the pandemic, de Blasio said, the governor has “added politics to decisions.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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