Cuomo Holds Wide Lead Despite Anti-Corruption Panel Controversy: NBCNY Poll

Among voters familiar with flap, Cuomo's image is tarnished

Gov. Cuomo continues to lead his Republican opponent by a wide margin, even though a majority of New York voters say his staff behaved unethically in how it dealt with a panel created to tackle corruption in state politics, according to a poll released Monday.

Cuomo, who is running for his second term in November, leads Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino 54 percent to 23 percent, a new NBC 4 New York/The Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll found. The Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, got 7 percent.

Little changed since July, when the Democrat led Astorino 59 percent to 24 percent.

“He’s still keeping the controversy at arm’s length in terms of its impact on his reelection prospects,” said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

The poll is the first to gauge support for Cuomo since The New York Times reported that his office had hindered the panel, called the Moreland Commission, when it focused on groups with ties to the governor.

The Times reported that a senior Cuomo aide, Lawrence Schwartz, blocked subpoenas to a media-buying firm that had bought air time for Cuomo’s first campaign for governor in 2010 and to a real estate trade group that supported him.

It also reported that Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, warned the Cuomo administration against witness tampering or obstruction of justice, after several commissioners made public statements in support of the panel.

Last week Cuomo denied that his administration had interfered with the commission, which he created last summer. He said his office only made suggestions, which the commission rejected.

The poll found that 62 percent of voters said Cuomo’s staff should not have had input into the commission’s work, however.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said the governor’s office had done something unethical, though not illegal, while another 11 percent said it had done something illegal.
Still, the controversy has made a negligible dent in Cuomo's lead over Astorino, the poll found. In the poll, 71 percent of voters indicated the controversy either would be a minor factor or would not factor in their choice for governor.

“Astorino, he’s on a treadmill,” Miringoff said. “He’s running very hard, but he’s not getting anywhere right now.”

Cuomo’s approval rating remains almost unchanged at 47 percent, according to the poll. Nor is there much difference in the percentage of New Yorkers who said the state is headed in the right direction – 48 percent of those surveyed -- compared with a prior poll.

Cuomo’s image has been tarnished, though, Miringoff said. Fifty-three percent of registered voters have a favorable impression of Cuomo, his lowest rating since he took office and down from 58 percent last month.

Since the Moreland Commission has been in the news, 49 percent of voters said Cuomo had changed Albany for the better, down from 55 percent last month. Among voters who had heard of the commission, that number was only 42 percent, compared with 53 percent who disagreed.

“People are unhappy with what went on if they’ve heard of it. If they have, some of that is being laid at the governor’s doorstep," Miringoff said. "For most New Yorkers, this is not a voting choice issue for November.”

Among New York voters, 51 percent thought the controversy involving New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge was worse, though the findings depended on party registration, the poll found.

The survey of 1,039 New Yorkers, 852 of them registered voters, was conducted from July 28 through July 31 via landlines and cellphones and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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