Siena Poll: 70% of New Yorkers Approve of Andrew Cuomo

Sarah Laskow | January 18th, 2011

Eliot Spitzer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo

For a group of people generally considered realistic and hard-headed, New Yorkers remain surprisingly optimistic about the state’s politicians, or, at the very least, the state’s top politician, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor weighed in yesterday at 70% in favorability in the latest Siena Institute polls; a plurality of people thought he was doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

“After nearly one month in office, voters’ honeymoon with the new Democratic governor remains strong,” pollster Steve Greenberg said.

Er, scratch that. That’s what Greenberg had to say four years ago, about another Democratic governor who’d stoked the state’s hopes for a new kind of Albany.

And while “Cuomo’s honeymoon is in full swing,” according to Greenberg, the newest white knight of New York politics still can’t quite reach the heights of hope that Eliot Spitzer inspired. In the first January of his term, back in 2007, New Yorkers were even more bullish on their new governor: 75% had a favorable opinion of him.

Where did Spitzer get that extra edge? So far, it turns out, Cuomo’s carefully calibrated centrism has not proven more appealing to Republicans or independently-minded voters than Spitzer’s clean-up campaign did. In 2007, 59% of Republicans had a favorable view of Spitzer; 60% of Republicans feel similarly about Cuomo. Spitzer actually did better with independents, 71% of whom feel in the favorable column; Cuomo has only convinced 65% so far.

Spitzer’s real advantage, however, was with his own party. A whopping 87% of Democrats had a favorable opinion of him in January 2007; Cuomo only commands the same warm feelings from 78% of Dems.

Of course, New Yorkers soured on Spitzer soon enough. His numbers took a hit during the 2007 budget battle, but had begun climbing again, when Troopergate emerged as an issue. Spitzer ended 2007 with only 36% of New Yorkers thinking favorably of him.

Cuomo is unlikely to fall that hard, and as long as he keeps his nose squeaky clean, he can hope against hope that it’ll soon be less fun to compare him to Spitzer. Once his governorship survives more than 14 months, he can finally escape from the steamroller’s shadow.

Instead, Cuomo can start casting his own shadow over Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who, given that he now has the job of the state’s last two elected governors, is a new target for speculation. Schneiderman says he’s not interesting in running for governor, of course, but in the Wall Street Journal’s recent story on Schneiderman, the kicker was Alec Baldwin’s comment that “when Mr. Schneiderman visited the governor’s mansion he told a state employee to keep those towels with “E.S. on them,” a nod to the fact that Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Schneiderman share the same initials.”

If Schneiderman does harbor that genre of ambition, though, he’ll have to start making more splashy headlines somewhere along the way. Even though he’s now been elected AG, New Yorkers still don’t know much about him: in the most recent Siena poll, 60% of New Yorkers said they had no opinion of him, favorable or unfavorable.