Cuomo’s popularity not dented by ‘undercount’ of nursing home deaths, Siena poll finds

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s popularity wasn’t damaged by the release of a report by the state’s attorney general that found Cuomo had undercounted the number of Covid-19 deaths among nursing home residents, a poll released Tuesday by the Siena College Research Institute found.

The poll was conducted Feb. 7-11, after the Jan. 28 release of Attorney General Tish James’ report but before a New York Post story detailing Cuomo’s refusal to release the nursing home death numbers. The poll found 56 percent of respondents said they view Cuomo favorably, compared to 39 percent who view him unfavorably. That’s basically the same as the 57-39 he received in January and 56-39 he received in November.

Only 39 percent said that he has done an “excellent” or “good” job at “making public all data about Coivd-related deaths of nursing home patients.” But that was “the issue on which voters most harshly grade Cuomo,” Siena spokesperson Steve Greenberg noted. On the broader question of how he’s handling the pandemic, the governor won the approval of 61 percent of respondents and disapproval of 34 percent. That compares to 63-32 in January and 63-30 in November. The extent of any damage from the Post report will have to wait until the next poll.

"Despite the best efforts of the far fringe, Governor Cuomo’s numbers remain unchanged from last month,” State Democratic Committee chair Jay Jacobs said in a statement. “Apparently, voters understand better than some of those looking to score political points that the Governor has done a great job staying focused on saving lives and ending this pandemic. Those seeking to politicize the process should take heed."

Cuomo on Monday declined to apologize for his administration’s decision to let Covid-19 patients into nursing homes at the peak of the pandemic in New York. But the governor did say he was sorry his administration did not prioritize the release of complete information about the spread of Covid-19 in nursing facilities, saying repeatedly that inaction created a “void” of accurate information that was filled by political opponents.

The Siena poll found 46 percent of voters said they’d like to reelect Cuomo next year, while 45 percent preferred “someone else.” That’s down a tad from the 48-42 he received in January. Among Democrats, though — whose support is arguably the most critical for Cuomo, who has historically been perceived as much more vulnerable in deep-blue New York’s primaries than in general elections — 65 percent would like to give him another term, while 22 percent would prefer the unnamed opponent. That’s an increase from 61-28 in January.

The current numbers are in the same ballpark as the 47-44 among all voters and 64-27 among Democrats which Cuomo received in a January, 2017 Siena poll. He went on to win his primary the following year by 31 points and the general election by 23 points.

James does not seem to have enjoyed a boost in popularity due to her investigation. She polled at 36-17 favorable-unfavorable, which compares to 35-17 in January.

The poll also found that support for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has hit a record high. The proposal has been consistently supported by between 55 and 60 percent of New Yorkers in dozens of polls over the course of several years; the one released on Tuesday found it has the backing of 63 percent.

Siena spoke with 804 registered voters, and the numbers have a margin of error of 4.3 points. View the crosstabs here.

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