Gov. Kathy Hochul continues to hold a lead over her nearest rival Attorney General Letitia James in an increasingly crowded Democratic primary for governor, a Siena College poll released Tuesday morning found.
Still, voters hold a negative view of the job she is doing as governor nearly four months after she was elevated to the post following the resignation of ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo even as a majority believe her to be honest and a hard worker, the poll found.
There is significant uncertainty heading into the new year, with the omicron variant potentially upending expectations for the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals in some areas of the state facing a staffed bed shortage and calls from Democrats for the state to impose new restrictions to handle a surge of cases in recent weeks.
Voters in the poll rank the economy and crime as top concerns for state officials to address. New York voters are also split on the direction of the state and the country, the poll found: 41% believe New York is heading in the right direction; 45% do not.
A majority of voters, 56%, believe the country is on the wrong track.
Hochul is being challenged by James as well as by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island. She drew 36% of support from Democrats in the survey, with James receiving 18%. Williams received 10% while Suozzi, who entered the race last week, drew 6%.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who leaves office at the end of the year and has been openly considering a bid, also received 6%. Nearly a quarter of Democrats, 23%, have indicated they are yet to make up their minds.
The favorable view of voters is little changed from October when she received a 42% to 28% rating. Job-wise, voters have not changed their opinion on Hochul either, with a 42% to 46% split, also little changed when Siena College last asked the question in October.
Many of Hochul's rivals remain little known to voters regardless of party affiliation, including Suozzi, who last ran for governor in 2006, and Williams, who challenged Hochul in the lieutenant governor primary in 2018. More than half of voters have no opinion of either candidate.
James, the attorney general since 2019 whose office released a damaging report detailing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct leveled against Cuomo, has a 40% favorable rating with voters, with 25% holding a negative view.
De Blasio remains broadly unpopular with voters statewide, with 55% holding a negative view of him.
“Hochul continues to have a double-digit lead over her opponents in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and, unlike what is often seen in early polls, it is not completely based on name recognition. After all, Hochul and James have very similar favorability ratings among all voters – with nearly identical favorability ratings among Democrats – and de Blasio is the most known – and most disfavored – candidate among all voters and with just Democrats,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
As for the issues, a plurality of voters at 49% named creating economic opportunity after nearly two years of a damaging pandemic as their either number one or number two issue, with 43% saying crime is one of their top two concerns. Combating the still ongoing pandemic ranked third among voters at 37%.
A majority of New York voters are also supportive of President Biden's signature Build Back Better Act, 52% to 28%. A majority of voters support many of the bill's core components, with 90% backing an expansion of the Medicare program to cover hearing aids, 77% supporting universal pre-Kindergarten, and 76% also backing the effort to cap child care costs at 7% of a household's income.
A majority of New York state voters, 52% to 44%, hold a favorable view of the president.
The poll of 785 voters was conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. For the Democratic voter questions, 399 voters were surveyed, with a margin of error of 5.4 percentage points.