Voters Give Thumbs Up to Paterson Senate Pick: Poll

But most say Gov mishandled selection process

By nearly two-to-one, voters approve of Gov. David Paterson’s selection of Kirsten Gillibrand as New York’s new junior Senator, while almost two-thirds rate the way the governor handled filling the vacancy as either poor or fair, according to a new Siena (College) Research Institute poll of registered voters. 

Paterson’s favorability rating has fallen to its lowest level since May, as the number of voters having an unfavorable view of the Governor has hit a new high.  

Fifty-one percent of voters approve of Gillibrand’s appointment, including nine percent who strongly approve, compared to 28 percent who disapprove, seven percent strongly.  While there are only slight differences among Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, there are major differences between downstate voters and upstate voters.  New York City voters approve by a 44-34 percent margin, similar to the downstate suburban approval of 44-43 percent.  Upstate voters, however, approve of her appointment 63-19 percent.

“Most New York voters do not know enough about the new junior Senator to have an opinion about her, however, among those who do have a view of Gillibrand, 30 percent have a favorable view and 13 percent have an unfavorable view of her,” said Steven Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena New York Poll.  “Gillibrand starts her Senate tenure with New Yorkers having an open mind and in fact approving her selection.  And a plurality of voters thinks Gillibrand will do an excellent or good job as Senator.”

Forty-three percent of voters say Gillibrand will do an excellent or good job and 30 percent say she will do only a fair or poor job.  While 37 percent of downstaters anticipate an excellent or good job, 53 of upstaters think she will be excellent or good.

Paterson’s favorability rating stands at 54-30 percent, down from 60-23 percent less than a week ago and     63-22 percent in December.   Among independent voters his favorability rating fell in less than a week from 68-20 percent to 49-36 percent.

“Governor Paterson’s favorability rating fell below 55 percent for the first time since May, and the 30 percent of voters having an unfavorable view of him is the highest it’s ever been,” Greenberg said.  “In less than one week, and in the midst of the media coverage of the fallout from his Senate selection, the Governor’s favorability dropped six points and his unfavorable rating rose seven points.”

Only six percent of voters say Paterson did an excellent job in the way he handled filling the Senate vacancy, with another 27 percent saying he did a good job, while 33 percent rated the job he did as fair job and 29 percent poor.   In the downstate suburbs, 22 percent of voters rated the Governor’s actions as positive, while 73 percent rated them negatively.  Upstate it was 43 percent positive, 54 percent negative.

“While voters largely approve of the Governor’s selection of Senator Gillibrand, they largely disapprove of the way he handled the selection process,” Greenberg said.  “It’s not surprising that nearly two-thirds of  all voters, including more than 60 percent from every party and every region of the state, want to see any future vacancies in the United States Senate filled by a vote of New Yorkers in a special election.”

For future Senate vacancies, 30 percent of voters would like to see the law unchanged and have the Governor make the appointment, while 65 percent want the law changed to require a special election.

“While she’s been in office for only two days and doesn’t have to face the voters for more than a year and a half, Senator Gillibrand has her work cut out for her – particularly with members of her own party – if she wants to be elected in 2010 to complete the last two years of the Senate term,” Greenberg said.

Currently, 21 percent of voters say they are prepared to vote for Gillibrand in 2010, while 29 percent prefer “someone else.”  She does better with Republicans (24-28 percent) than with Democrats (20-28 percent).  Among Democrats only, 11 percent would prefer she run unopposed for the Democratic nomination, while 63 percent would like to see another Democrat challenge her.

In hypothetical 2010 Senate match-ups, Gillibrand beats former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani 44-42 percent, and beats Congressman Peter King (R-Nassau County) 46-23 percent.  If Giuliani and King were to square off in a Republican primary, Giuliani has a 69-16 percent lead among Republican voters.

“While the largely unknown Gillibrand has a commanding early lead over the largely unknown King, the margin of her lead largely reflects the party enrollment of New York voters,” Greenberg said.  “Against Giuliani, however, she would start the race running neck and neck with the former Mayor, who is far more well known and well liked – at least right now – than Senator Gillibrand.”

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