NBC New York/WSJ Poll: Perception of Cuomo Shifts Left, Fewer Say He's Moderate

Two years into Gov. Andrew Cuomo's first term, the Democrat's perception is changing among voters in New York state, with more describing him as liberal and fewer calling him a moderate, a new NBC New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll released Wednesday shows.

The survey finds that 37 percent of registered voters describe the Democratic governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate as a moderate, while 35 percent say he is a liberal. When Marist last asked that question in January 2012, 57 percent thought he was a moderate, while 21 percent said he was a liberal. The biggest shift was among Republicans; 50 percent say he is liberal, up from 24 percent in January 2012.

The poll surveyed 673 registered voters statewide Feb. 26 to Feb. 28 and has a plus or minus 4 percentage point margin of error.

See the complete poll here.

Pollster Lee Miringoff says the shift in perception about Cuomo's ideology can be partly explained by the package of landmark gun control measures that the governor rushed into law after the Newtown, Conn. school massacre, which made New York the first state to pass tougher gun control laws following the tragedy. The law passed Jan. 15, a month after a gunman killed 26 children at the school. It toughened the state's assault weapons ban and contains restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns. 

The measure had more support in New York City and its suburbs than it did upstate. 

John Hunt, a 48-year-old independent from Westchester County who responded to the poll, told NBC 4 New York in a followup interview that he believed Cuomo had shifted further to the left in the past year.

The gun control package, Hunt said, "made him seem a little more liberal."

"And it seemed as if the response to what happened in Connecticut is more of a Band-Aid to show that something does need to be done," he added. "We need a more comprehensive package to address the gun violence."

Poll respondent Thomas Petersen, a Democrat from Manhattan who supported the gun control bill, said in an interview that he thought Cuomo was "doing a really good job," and felt that his feelings about the governor had improved over time.

"They've probably gotten a lot better," Petersen said. "I think I like him a lot more."

Cuomo has also taken a more progressive stand on other issues in recent months. During his passionate State of the State address in January, he called for passage of the Women's Reproductive Health Act because "it is her body, it is her choice." He said last week he wants to codify current abortion protections in case the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade.

The poll also found that fewer respondents believe Cuomo represents the entire state.

Some 53 percent believe he represents all regions of the state, while 40 percent do not, and when Marist last asked this question in May 2011, 63 percent believed he represented all regions while 28 percent did not.

Herman Gabora, a Republican from Nassau County who participated in the poll, told NBC 4 New York that he perceives Cuomo as a liberal who has to change the way he presents himself to the public.

"He's a politician. He has to swing both sides of the stick -- that's the name of the game," Gabora said.

Upstate voters in the poll were the least likely to believe Cuomo is equally representing the entire state.

Cuomo's job approval rating has also declined upstate; 49 percent of voters approve of how he is doing in office, down from 58 percent in October. His approval rating of 60 percent in New York City and its suburbs has not changed.

Overall statewide, Cuomo's approval rating has not changed much since October. With this poll, 56 percent of registered voters approve of the job he's doing, while 59 percent approved in October.

But Miringoff says the trend seen in the perception of his ideology is also evident in his approval ratings among voters who identify with a particular group or political party.

“Cuomo is doing better among Democrats and voters who describe themselves as liberal, but this is offset by a decline in his rating among Republicans, independents, conservatives, and upstate voters," Miringoff said.

Among Republicans, 46 percent approve of the job he's doing, down from 59 percent in October, while 67 percent of Democrats approve, up from 61 percent in October. Last fall, 54 percent of voters who describe themselves as conservative gave Cuomo high marks, and that has slipped to 39 percent in this poll.

Some 63 percent of moderate voters approved of him last October, while 58 percent did in last week's survey. Finally, 75 percent of voters who describe themselves as liberal give Cuomo a thumbs-up now, up from 62 percent last fall who had that view. 
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