5/6: Optimism Wanes amid Racial Divide in New York City… Mayor de Blasio’s Approval Rating Inches Up, but Voters Not Enthralled with His Performance

New York City voters are increasingly pessimistic about life in the Big Apple.  When asked about the overall direction of the city, the electorate divides.  49% report things are going in the wrong direction, and 45% say they are moving in the right one.  This is the first time since November of 2013, just before Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected, that the proportion of voters who think the city is on the right track has dipped below 50%.  Although a stark racial divide exists on this question, there has been a decrease in the proportions of both white and African American voters who think the city is moving in the right direction.

To compound New Yorkers’ downbeat attitude about the city, fewer than one in five residents, 17%, believes the overall quality of life in the city has improved over the last year.  A majority, 56%, reports it has either gotten worse, 33%, or has remained the same which, in their view, is a bad thing, 23%.

On the specifics of life in New York City, only 9% of adults citywide believe the number of homeless, panhandlers, or mentally ill has decreased in the past year while more than four in ten, 42%, think this situation in New York City has gotten worse.  43% say the number of homeless, panhandlers, or mentally ill on city streets has remained the same.  One bright spot does exist.  Six in ten residents, 60%, have either a great deal of confidence, 25%, or a fair amount of confidence, 35%, in the police officers in their community to protect them from violent crime.

Opinions differ based on race on these questions.  This polarization is also prominent in attitudes toward New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Views also differ based on the socioeconomic status of city dwellers.

Opinions about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are incongruous.  The mayor’s overall job approval rating has inched up to 44% from 39% in March 2014, and nearly six in ten voters, 59%, have a favorable impression of him.  However, only 40% of voters consider de Blasio to be changing New York City for the better, and a majority of voters, 53%, do not think his policies are historic and transforming the city.

On the specifics of Mayor de Blasio’s job performance, attitudes are lukewarm.  While pluralities of residents citywide approve of how he is handling the city’s schools, 47%, and economic development, 47%, they divide about de Blasio’s performance on crime.  Regarding the New York City budget, 42% disapprove and 40% approve, but a notable 18% are unsure how to rate Mr. de Blasio on this issue.  Mayor de Blasio’s score on his handling of the relationship between police and the community is in negative territory.  Not surprisingly, there is a substantial difference in opinion along racial lines.

Mayor de Blasio, as mentioned above, is well-liked by a majority of New York City voters.  The mayor is viewed by, at least, a majority of voters as someone who cares about the average person, a good leader, and a unifier who can get things done.  However, on each of these questions, there has been a dip in the proportions of voters who perceive de Blasio positively.  The mayor is also viewed as a man of action.

A majority of voters, though, considers de Blasio to be irresponsible when he arrives late for public events, and they divide about whether or not the mayor is spending too much time discussing policy on the national level and not focusing enough on what he can be doing for New York City.

What does all of this mean for de Blasio in 2017?  A plurality, 47%, reports he deserves to be re-elected.

On policy questions, more than three in four residents, 77%, support increasing the minimum wage.  But, more than six in ten, 63%, oppose charging for plastic grocery bags and hiring more police if it means cutting other city programs, 62%.

“Depending upon one’s perspective of Mayor de Blasio, the glass is either half full or half empty,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, “Many New Yorkers are troubled by the direction and conditions of the city although they generally like the mayor.”

Click Here for Complete May 6, 2015 NBC 4 New York/The Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll NYC Release and Tables

Poll points:

  • Voters in New York City divide about the way things are going in the city.  49% believe the city is moving in the wrong direction while 45% say it is moving in the right one.  There has been a shift on this question since it was last reported in March 2014.  At that time, a majority, 53% considered New York City to be on track while 42% thought it was off course.  This is the first time since November 2013 that fewer than half of voters think the city is moving in the right direction (Trend).
  • Racial differences exist.  African American voters, 53%, are more likely than whites, 35%, to say the city is moving in the right direction.  Still, there has been a decline in the proportions of both African American and white voters who say the city is on course since the spring of 2014.  At that time, 60% of African Americans and 45% of whites thought the city was on track.
  • Voters in Manhattan, 50%, are more likely than those in the other boroughs to say the city is on the right course.  A majority in Queens and Staten Island, 52%, and nearly half, 48%, of those in the Bronx, say the Big Apple is on the wrong path.  Brooklyn voters divide with 48% reporting it is moving in the wrong direction.  44% say it is going in the right direction.
  • 17% of residents say the quality of life in New York City has gotten better over the past year while one in three, 33%, says it has gotten worse.  47% report it has remained the same.  Of those, 23% describe the status quo as a bad thing, and 20% say the lack of change is a good thing.  Four percent who say the quality of life has remained the same do not specify whether the lack of change is good or bad.
  • Only 9% of New York City residents say the number of homeless, panhandlers, and mentally ill on the city’s streets has declined in the past year.  42% report it has increased, and 43% think it has stayed the same.
  • 60% of adults citywide have a great deal, 25%, or fair amount, 35%, of confidence in police in their community to protect them from violent crime.  18% have some faith in the New York City Police Department, and 20% have very little confidence.
  • White residents, 76%, are more likely than Latinos, 54%, and African Americans, 49%, to trust their local police, at least a fair amount, to keep them safe from violent crime.
  • Looking at the City Council’s move to decriminalize certain offenses, 66% support decriminalizing being in a park after dark, and 63% support downgrading bicycling on sidewalks to a civil violation.  A majority, 55%, thinks public consumption of alcohol should be decriminalized, and nearly half, 49%, say the same about jumping a turnstile.  Residents divide about whether public urination should be reclassified to a civil violation.  50% believe it should while 47% say it should not.

Ratings for de Blasio a Mixed Bag

  • 44% of New York City voters think Bill de Blasio is doing either an excellent, 8%, or a good job, 36%, as mayor.  This is up slightly from 39% in March 2014.  A majority, 52%, currently rates his performance as fair, 34%, or poor, 18%.
  • White voters, 32%, are less likely than African Americans, 59%, and Latinos, 49%, to approve of how Mayor de Blasio is doing in office.  The biggest increase in the mayor’s standing has been among African Americans.  In March 2014, 50% of African American voters approved of de Blasio’s performance.  45% of Latino and 30% of white voters, at that time, said the same.
  • By borough, a majority of Manhattan voters, 53%, rates de Blasio highly.  49% of those in Brooklyn and 47% in the Bronx do the same.  Voters in Queens and Staten Island, 33%, are the least likely to approve of how Mayor de Blasio is performing in office.
  • 59% of voters citywide have a favorable impression Mayor de Blasio, unchanged from March 2014.  34% have an unfavorable view of him.  Again, racial differences are present.  74% of Latino and 73% of African American voters, compared with just 40% of whites, have a positive opinion of the mayor.
  • Four in ten voters, 40%, think Mayor de Blasio is changing New York City for the better while 20% say he is having a negative impact on the city.  About one in three, 34%, believes he is not affecting the city at all.  Six percent, down from 12%, are unsure.  While the proportion of voters who say de Blasio is improving the city has changed little from 43% last year, there has been an increase in those who say he is not having any impact.  Last year, 25% had this view.
  • African Americans, 58%, and Latinos, 53%, are more than twice as likely as whites, 21%, to say Mayor de Blasio is changing the city for the better.
  • A majority of voters, 53%, does not think the mayor’s policies are historic and transformative as he describes.  39% believe they are.
  • 47% of New York City residents approve of how Mayor de Blasio is handling the city’s public schools while 40% disapprove.  A notable 12% are unsure.
  • 47% approve of the mayor’s approach to economic development.  42% disapprove.  11% are unsure.
  • Adults in New York City divide about how Mayor de Blasio is handling crime in the city.  47% approve while 46% disapprove.
  • Residents also divide about the mayor’s handling of the city’s budget, but a notable proportion are unsure.  40% approve of de Blasio’s approach while 42% disapprove.  18% are unsure.
  • 57% of residents disapprove of how Mayor de Blasio approaches relations between the police and the community.  37% approve.

The Specifics of Mayor de Blasio’s Image


City Dwellers Favor Raising the Minimum Wage; Oppose Plastic Bag Surcharge and Hiring of Additional Police

  • Nearly eight in ten adults, 77%, support raising the minimum wage to at least $13 even if some businesses say it will reduce hiring.  One in five residents, 20%, opposes the proposal.  Regardless of race, borough of residence, or class status, there is overwhelming support to increase the minimum wage.
  • More than six in ten New York City residents, 63%, oppose a bill which would require grocery stores to charge 10 cents for each plastic bag.  36% support this proposal.  Regardless of race or class status, at least a majority opposes charging for plastic bags in grocery stores.
  • 62% of adults citywide are against hiring an additional 1,000 police officers if it means cutting back other city programs.  32% support this initiative.  Here, too, opposition crosses racial lines.  Latinos, 73%, and African Americans, 64%, are more likely to oppose hiring new police officers than whites, 52%.

Marist Poll Methodology

Nature of the Sample and Complete Tables