Growing concerns about rising crime and the prospect of being a victim of violent crime, as well as an increase in the cost of living, are reflected in the recently released public opinion poll of New York City residents by Siena College. The Siena survey, conducted in English and Spanish among 1,000 New York City residents, paints at best a very sour portrait of the mindset of New Yorkers today – indeed suggesting New Yorkers are really on edge.
Not surprisingly, this fear and anxiety is creating a very negative political atmosphere, dragging down opinions of top elected officials, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.
And with an impending primary election scheduled for later this month for governor and state Assembly, and another primary election scheduled for late August for Congress and state Senate, it remains to be seen how these high levels of unease will play out at the ballot box. Indeed, significant unhappiness on the part of the public frequently means that incumbent elected officials and those presenting the status quo will be fighting a very uphill battle to get elected and re-elected.
Here are several of the key themes that emerged from our reading of the Siena poll.
New York City/New York State: On the wrong track
With growing concerns about crime, inflation, and the rising cost of living from gas to groceries, to concerns about the possibility of a slowing economy, it’s not surprising that a significant number of residents see New York City and New York State going in the wrong direction. Only between one third and four in ten see either the city or the state heading in the right direction – a pretty dismal rating.
- While just 32% of city residents say that New York City is headed in the right direction, 56% say it’s headed in the wrong direction, which is the majority opinion in all 5 boroughs.
- The state numbers are slightly more positive with 38% saying the state is headed in the right direction, but 46%, nearly half the city, feeling that New York State is headed in the wrong direction.
As we have written about previously, these types of “unrest”/“wrong track” numbers likely suggest a political upheaval in the making, where incumbents are punished for not delivering a better climate for residents.
Fear of violent crime
With the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, combined with the recent shootings in the mass transit system, as well as the continued news coverage of crime, it’s not surprising that New Yorkers are feeling very vulnerable. The numbers however appear to be staggeringly negative.
69% of New Yorkers are concerned that a shooting targeting people by race, religion, or ethnicity will take place in their own neighborhood. And that fear is well placed. According to the NYPD, hate crimes in New York City are up 76% this year. And a report by the Anti-Defamation League found that hate crimes in New York rose a staggering 196% from 2020 to 2021, with Jews being the target of 40% of those hate attacks.
As residents think about crime and safety, in the city and across their neighborhoods, 70% feel less safe since before the pandemic. It is therefore not surprising that 52% believe that funding for the NYPD should be increased, something 51% of Black residents agree with. Amazingly 51% of city residents report changing a part of their daily routine in order to feel safer.
Leading elected officials: The recipients of poor ratings
The sour and uneasy mood casts a very dark cloud around perceptions of elected officials, including Eric Adams and Kathy Hochul. Just 28% rate the job performance of Adams as excellent or good, while 65% rate the job he is doing as only fair or poor – a stunningly negative rating for a relatively new elected official. Adams is slightly better perceived among Democrats, but still only 31% of Democrats rate his job performance as excellent or good. Adams’ negative ratings are most pronounced in Staten Island (73%) and Manhattan (67%). The Latino segment of the population, many of whom helped power Adams to victory in the Democratic primary last June, polled especially on the negative side, with 55% rating Adams’ job rating as poor.
Don Levy, the Siena poll director noted that Adam’s positive ratings do not exceed 33% among any segment of New York City residents by party, gender, ideology, or borough.
In terms of Adams’ job performance on a range of specific issues tested, his performance is not net positive on any specific issue area tested. Adams receives net negative ratings on the following specific areas of his job performance; addressing homelessness, running the public school system, fighting crime, encouraging tourists to visit NYC, managing everyday city services, transforming the NYPD into a force that serves and protects all, and tackling the issue of safety at Rikers Island – all net negative ratings.
That said, in terms of Adams’ style, residents are narrowly positive. The polling found 53% approve of Adams style, while 37% disapprove. And compared with his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, Adams is seen as doing a better job by roughly a 2:1 margin. Some 36% say that Adams is doing a better job than de Blasio did, 17% say that de Blasio did a better job than Adams, and about one third, 36% say that Adams is doing about as well as de Blasio.
In terms of the governor, 35% rate the job that Kathy Hochul is doing as only excellent or good, while 54% rate her job performance as only fair or poor. Her ratings are even lower among Democrats – 31% rate her job performance as positive, while nearly 2 in 3 (65%) rate it negatively.
That said, while other public polling demonstrates Hochul is in a commanding lead for the Democratic primary, there doesn’t appear to be any public polling that shows Hochul getting even 50% of the primary vote, despite the weakness of her opponents. This serves as a warning shot to the governor about the challenges she will face in the November general election.
Far from being an outlier, many of the important trends that the Siena College poll highlights very much mirror what national polls are showing. As an example, a recent poll by the Wall Street Journal demonstrates the unease that Americans nationally are feeling about the economy and our political divisions – further suggesting an increasingly challenging political climate for Democrats this fall.
Bradley Honan and Elisabeth Zeche are partners at the Democratic polling and data analytics firm, Honan Strategy Group.