Hochul struggling with favorability among independents, seeing progress with suburbanites

A recent Siena College Research Institute poll showed Gov. Kathy Hochul with her lowest favorability yet, but suburban voters are liking her more than they did in March when she was trying to force them to build housing.

Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

While Gov. Kathy Hochul’s favorability rating dipped into the negatives for the first time since becoming governor in a newly released Siena College Research Institute poll, that wasn’t the only revelation. The majority of voters agree the governor is hard working, but Hochul’s favorability among independents and suburbanites tells a deeper story.

New York is historically a blue state, but the surprisingly competitive gubernatorial race between Hochul and former Rep. Lee Zeldin made it hard to ignore the perspective of independent voters and suburbanites who harness power in statewide competitive races. 

Among independents, Hochul’s favorability rating dropped to 31%, down from 36% in March. Among suburbanites, favorability was still under water at 41%, but it was up 9 points from March, when Hochul was pushing her plan to mandate housing construction in the suburbs. 

The poll findings come after the governor's controversial housing compact plan failed to make it into the final state budget. If implemented, the plan would have required local municipalities to achieve new home construction targets over the next three years and threatened to override local zoning laws if they failed to meet those goals. The proposal received great criticisms from suburban lawmakers who argued against density. The plan also would have renewed tax incentives to build affordable housing. The governor still has high hopes to pass a housing package, while recognizing the best chance to get it done would be next year. 

Forty-five percent of New Yorkers surveyed viewed Hochul unfavorably, compared to 40% who viewed her favorably. That’s down from March when 43-43% saw Hochul poorly and positively. The record-low rating comes after Hochul oversaw the latest budget in over a decade, passing just over a month after the deadline. “While voters think that the recently passed budget and many of its specifics will be good for New York, at the same time they also give Hochul her worst-ever favorability rating – the first time it’s been under water,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said in a statement. “For months, we’ve noted that Hochul’s favorable rating has never hit 50%, now she’s struggling to keep it in the 40s.”

A plurality, 40%, of independent voters said the governor is not honest, 51% of independents say Hochul is not a strong leader and a plurality of 47% of independents assert the governor lacks effectiveness.

Suburbanites weren’t so negative, saying Hochul is hardworking and not corrupt. However, 44%, a plurality of suburbanites, said the governor is not a strong leader, 46% said she is not effective, and 52% said she is out of touch with New Yorkers. 

Although the budget was over a month late, most Democrats, Republicans and independent voters agree some budget proposals will have a positive impact. The poll found Democrats and independent voters largely agree the minimum wage increase and new funding for reproductive health care will be good for the state. 

However, independents are against new building electrification mandates and expanded tax credit. “Overall, Democrats think the budget will be good for the state, Republicans think it will be bad for the state, and independents are more closely divided.” Greenberg said.

Nearly half of voters polled also believe that Hochul is out of touch with New Yorkers, while opinions on whether she's effective and whether she's a strong leader were evenly split among all voters. But Hochul racked up some victories with specific budget policies like giving judges more discretion to set bail, which 59% of voters polled said is good for New York. A whopping 80% said that allocating $1 billion for mental health services is good for New York as well. But a mandate for new buildings starting after 2025 to be fully electric was polarizing, with 40% viewing the measure as good and 39% who said it was bad.