New York State

Cuomo’s approval ratings come back down to Earth

The governor’s polling boom is subsiding, for now.

Governor Cuomo at the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, 2020.

Governor Cuomo at the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, 2020. Kevin P. Coughlin/Shutterstock

At the rate things were going for the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on pace to reach a 110% approval rating by the end of Memorial Day, but the new political normal appears to not be so kind to Cuomo.

A plurality of voters are giving him less-than-stellar marks for his handling of nursing homes during the crisis and a majority of Republicans and independents no longer say the state is heading in the right direction, according to a new Siena College poll. GOP voters have also returned to trusting President Donald Trump more than the three-term governor.

The new polling numbers are the most definitive signs yet that the wave of popularity the governor rode during the first months of the pandemic has reached its apex in the last few weeks. 

His 66% approval rating right now is still nothing to sneer at, even if the 77% he had last month was obviously much better. Voters are still giving him high marks on handling the crisis itself, and just 38% of voters say the state Legislature should reassert its role in determining the state response by holding a session. 

However, just as the state enters the critical reopening stage of the crisis, the governor no longer enjoys the nearly universal support he once had. The governor wants to reimagine education and expand efforts to confront climate change while dealing with a massive drop in state revenues. That is going to require significant buy-in from the public. 

If Cuomo’s approval rating drops 11 points again in each of the next two months, he would be back to the negative approval rating he had one week before the crisis began.

The ostensible purpose of his Wednesday White House visit is to woo President Donald Trump on supporting infrastructure projects like a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, which Cuomo has said are key to reinvigorating the state economy. But the meeting also gives Cuomo a chance to once again look good by comparison to a president whose own popularity is suffering due to his ongoing opposition to face masks, social distancing and a new round of federal aid for states and local governments. And, if he succeeds at obtaining federal support, New Yorkers may once again credit him for managing the mercurial president better than some of his counterparts, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

The governor might end up coming up empty-handed after the meeting, but you never know how just one comment by the president might help Cuomo just when he could use a boost.