Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo’s polling numbers are notably not disastrous

His approval ratings are sinking, but most voters still say he should not resign.

Governor Cuomo on April 16.

Governor Cuomo on April 16. Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

It is likely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not too happy about the latest Siena College poll. His favorability among registered voters has hit a record low, with a majority disapproving of the job he has been doing in recent weeks. Just a third of them say they would support a bid for a fourth term in office, and a plurality of 44% of those polled believe he has sexually harassed his aides. “They do these polls all the time,” Cuomo told reporters at a Monday virtual press conference. “I'll tell you the truth: I don't put too much stock in them.”

Maybe he should. Despite some tough numbers in the poll, things are actually going pretty well for the governor considering the scandals he faces. The new poll shows that the governor is retaining political support among the all-important Black voters who could determine his political fate as multiple investigations continue into alleged sexual misconduct and an alleged cover-up of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Political and nonprofit leaders continue to appear at his side at public events across the state. Barring reporters from press conferences has helped the governor project normalcy to the general public while avoiding uncomfortable questions from the Albany press corps, whose attention he welcomed back when the political going was good during his time in the national limelight last year. 

Black voters form the base of the Democratic Party, so it is no accident that Cuomo has paid so much attention to them since nearly every prominent elected official – including some Black elected leaders like state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – in the state began calling for his resignation weeks ago. While his popularity has waned with voters overall, the latest Siena poll shows two out of three Black registered voters are sticking by the embattled governor. A majority of Democrats feel the same, and voters overall continue to give the governor high marks for his handling of the pandemic and the vaccine distribution process that he has highlighted by staging press-free events this month. 

Some of these events have featured prominent elected officials like Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, former Rep. Charles Rangel and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown singing Cuomo’s political praises without the presence of reporters, who have not seen the governor in-person since early December. “Thank you for your vision and your bold leadership toward building back a better and stronger New York,” Brown said at one recent event. While members of the media lament the lack of access to the governor, it does not appear to affect his standing with voters, most of whom are undoubtedly not following every new development in state politics. 

Despite all the unflattering stories about the governor, most voters still credit him for doing an excellent job communicating with them. The vast majority of them say they are familiar with the sexual harassment allegations against him, but just 37% want him to resign. A majority of voters even say they are “satisfied” with the apology that Cuomo has offered, though being sorry for making people “uncomfortable” has no bearing on the legal standards of sexual harassment. 

So while everything is not perfect for the three-term governor, he appears to be doing OK considering all the political setbacks that transformed him from a national political star to pariah in just over two months time. That doesn’t mean that he does not face immense political peril in the upcoming weeks. Ongoing probes by state Attorney General Letitia James and federal investigators could unearth additional unflattering details about alleged sexual harassment and the reported removal of the true total of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 from a July 2020 state Department of Health report. An impeachment probe could always push Cuomo one step closer to becoming the first governor to be removed from office in more than a century. But as things stand now, the governor is holding onto power.