8/5: NYS Voters Wary About Moreland Commission Controversy, But it Doesn’t Change Much for Governor’s Contest in November

Many New York State voters believe Governor Cuomo’s staff acted inappropriately when they engaged with members of the Moreland Commission which was established by the governor to root out corruption in state government.  A majority of registered voters also think the governor’s office did not proceed ethically although few think any laws were breached.  And, there are political costs for the governor’s image among voters familiar with the controversy.


But, the big takeaway for this November’s elections is that most of the electorate considers the controversy to be either a minor factor or not a factor at all in deciding their vote for governor.  Governor Andrew Cuomo still outpaces his GOP opponent Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino by a wide margin although his lead has narrowed slightly from a month ago.  Cuomo continues to receive support from seven in ten Democrats (slipping from eight in ten) and is backed by a majority of independents.  He still has support among nearly a quarter of Republicans although that is down from three in ten last month.  His approval rating as governor is little changed. There has been a decline in the proportion of voters who have a favorable impression of the governor.

In a region beset by gubernatorial scandals, New Yorkers generally stand by their governor.  Governor Christie’s traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge is seen as worse than Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Commission controversy.

“Among voters keyed into the issue the political storm is taking a toll on their views of Governor Cuomo.  But, he has managed to keep the fallout at arm’s length where his re-election is concerned,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “The problem for Rob Astorino is that the controversy involving Governor Cuomo’s office has not, so far, shaken up the race.  Neither have voters’ impressions of Astorino improved.”

Complete August 5, 2014 NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll

Poll Points

  • 62% of registered voters believe Governor Cuomo’s staff should not have had input into the work of the Moreland Commission.  This includes 71% of Republicans, 63% of independents, and even, 59% of Democrats who share this view.
  • 52% of the electorate thinks the governor’s staff did something unethical by getting involved with the work of the commission, but only 11% believe they did something illegal. These opinions are largely consistent across party lines.
  • Only 23% of voters see the Moreland Commission controversy as a major factor in deciding their vote for governor in November.  71% describe the controversy as either a minor factor, 41%, or no factor at all, 30%.
  • 54% of registered voters statewide, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, support Governor Cuomo’s re-election compared with 23% who back Republican Rob Astorino.  Last month, Cuomo outdistanced Astorino, 59% to 24%.
  • The decline in Cuomo’s margin over Astorino is the result of a decrease in the governor’s support among Democrats from 81% to 72%, and a drop in the proportion of Republicans who back the governor from 30% to 24%.  Regionally, the governor’s dip is greatest in New York City where his support fell from 80% to 66% in the month.  Statistically, there is little change, overall, in support for Astorino.
  • Cuomo still bests Astorino, 44% to 32%, among voters who believe New York State needs major changes or is broken and beyond repair.  But, last month he led Astorino by 19 points among these voters, 50% to 31%.
  • 53% of registered voters currently have a favorable impression of Governor Cuomo, the lowest rating he’s received since taking office (Trend).  His score continues to decline from 58% last month and 63% since March.
  • Astorino is still not known by a majority of voters.  53%, do not offer an opinion of him.  22% rate him positively, and 25% view him negatively.
  • Democratic primary challenger Zephyr Teachout is not known by most voters.

Moreland Meddling, The More You Know…

  • Since the Moreland Controversy made news, only 49% of voters are now confident the governor is changing the way things work in Albany for the better, a decline from 55% last month.  Among voters who are familiar with the Moreland Commission controversy (45% of the electorate), 42% think the governor is changing Albany for the better, and 53% disagree.  In contrast, 56% of voters who are unfamiliar with the controversy think Governor Cuomo is making progress in how state government works, and 31% do not hold this view.
  • 46% of the electorate believes Governor Cuomo is fulfilling campaign promises, and 39% do not.  47% of voters who are aware of the controversy do not think the governor is keeping his campaign promises.  For those who are unaware of the controversy, 32% share this view.
  • Cuomo’s job approval as governor, overall, is 47%, little changed from the 48% he received in July (Trend).  Among voters familiar with the controversy, 43% give the governor a positive job rating.  In contrast, the governor receives a 51% approval score from voters unfamiliar with the recent Moreland Commission news.  The legislature continues to be unpopular.  27% approve of the work of the New York State Senate, (Trend) and 27% give a positive score to the New York State Assembly (Trend).
  • As noted above, a majority of voters statewide, 53%, have a favorable impression of the governor including 52% of those who have heard about the controversy and 54% of those who have not.  But, the governor’s unfavorable rating is 39% among voters who are aware compared with only 25% among those who are unaware of the controversy.
  • 60% of voters see Cuomo as a good leader for the state, and 58% believe he cares about the average person.  These views are relatively unchanged from last month. Yet, among voters who have heard of the controversy, 56% think Governor Cuomo is a good leader compared with 64% among those who are unaware of the issue with the Moreland Commission.
  • There is little movement in voters’ views about the direction of the state since last month.  48% of voters think the state is on the right path, and 45% do not.  In July, 47% had a positive opinion of the course the state was taking, and 46% had a negative view (Trend).  The awareness of the controversy makes no difference in voters’ assessment of the direction of the state.
  • Although a slim majority of voters, 51%, think the state is in need of major changes, and an additional 6% believe it is broken and beyond repair.  The numbers of New Yorkers who think the state is in need of major change has declined during Cuomo’s tenure as governor.  When Cuomo first took office in January 2011, 73% of voters wanted to see major changes in state government, and 10% thought the state was could not be fixed.

Cuomo vs. Christie:  Competing Controversies

Marist Poll Methodology
Nature of the Sample and Complete Tables