On Eve of Inauguration, Bill de Blasio Faces High Voter Expectations: Poll

Changing course was New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's campaign theme, and New Yorkers are holding him to it

As Bill de Blasio prepares to take the oath of office as New York's 109th mayor, a poll shows the voters who awarded him a landslide victory are now expressing high hopes about his coming administration, showing that in politics, great promises come with great expectations.

And a healthy dose of skepticism.

De Blasio, a Democrat, won November's election with 73 percent of the vote, largely by exploiting voters' fatigue with three-term Mayor Bloomberg and frustration over the city's income gap and the police tactic of stop-and-frisk. Changing course was de Blasio's campaign theme, and New Yorkers are holding him to it.

Sixty-six percent of voters say they're bullish about his rule, and 58 percent think he's going to change the city for the better, a new NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows.

On the other side of those numbers, however, are the 42 percent of voters who don't feel as confident about the new mayor's effect — they either feel he'll make the city worse or won't affect it much at all, or they're unsure what direction he'll take it.

"There's no free ride in politics right now, and New York is no exception," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "So he's going to have to hit the ground running and start convincing people that he will in fact accomplish some of the things he said he'll accomplish."

Among de Blasio's top campaign pledges were to persuade state lawmakers to approve a tax increase on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund universal pre-kindergarten, and to curtail stop-and-frisk.

He doesn't take office until Jan. 1, but has begun campaigning for the education plan and has named reformer and former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton as his top cop.

“The first 100 days will be interesting," Miringoff said. "We'll see if he’s able to sustain that energy.”

The poll, conducted Monday to Wednesday, surveyed 706 registered voters, carrying a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

While most New York voters remain enthusiastic about de Blasio, there are signs that the wave of good will for the mayor-elect isn't as powerful as it was when he was just a candidate.

Just before the Nov. 5 election, 64 percent of registered voters told an NBC 4 poll that they viewed de Blasio favorably. Today, that number has slipped to 56 percent. The number who viewed him unfavorably also dropped slightly, from 26 percent to 20 percent.

At the same time, the proportion of voters who hadn't heard of de Blasio or were unsure of him grew from 10 percent to 23 percent.

"Those two sets of data really reflect the difference between when you're in campaign mode and you have a lot of advertisements and debates, and when you get into a transition to governing," Miringoff said. "Voters in New York are having a wait-and-see attitude. They're positive and hopeful, but there is a growing number who are just not sure because how he's moving into that different role, from candidate … to mayor."

Bloomberg, meanwhile, will leave office with a respectable, but not overwhelming, approval rating: 49 percent say he did a good or excellent job, while 47 percent rate his performance as fair or poor. That's not too far off the responses from November, when the split was 47-49.

"His time in office not especially polarizing," Miringoff said. "He didn't inspire much love or hate. It was more like and dislike."

Miringoff added: "People generally value him as a decent mayor."

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