Majority of NYers Say SI Grand Jury Should Have Indicted Cop in Garner Death

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Majority of NYers: SI Grand Jury Should Have Indicted Cop in Garner Death; Feds Should Bring Civil Rights Charges; AG Should Handle Cases When Civilian Killed by Police
Strong Opposition to a Legislative Pay Raise; Support for
SAFE ACT; Voters Divided on Dream Act and Fracking
Looking to 2016, Hillary Clinton Overwhelmingly Leads Dem Field;
Christie, Romney & Jeb Bush Are Top 3 Choices of Republicans

Loudonville, NY. By an almost two-to-one margin, New Yorkers believe that the Staten Island grand jury was wrong to not have brought charges against the police officer in the death of Eric Garner, with significant partisan, geographic and racial differences. With similar partisan, regional and racial differences, voters say 50-36 percent that the Federal government should bring civil rights charges against the officer and that New York’s criminal justice system does not treat people of color fairly (52-35 percent). There is strong support, 58-33 percent, for giving the State Attorney General the power to investigate and prosecute cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, rather than remaining within the current jurisdiction of local district attorneys, according to a new Siena College poll of New York State registered voters released today.

New Yorkers continue to strongly oppose a legislative pay raise, 63-28 percent. And they continue to support the SAFE ACT, 58-33 percent. Voters are divided on the Dream Act with 44 percent supporting it and 48 percent opposing it. Similarly, fracking continues to divide voters, with 38 percent opposing and 35 percent supporting.

“By a strong 55-30 percent margin, New Yorkers believe that the Staten Island grand jury investigating the death of Eric Garner should have brought charges against the police officer. While Democrats, voters from New York City, blacks and voters under 35 overwhelmingly say charges should have been brought, Republicans say two-to-one the grand jury was correct to not indict. And pluralities or smaller majorities of downstate suburbanites, upstaters, whites and voters over 55 say charges should have been brought,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg

“Similarly, large majorities of Democrats, New York City voters, blacks, Latinos and younger voters want the Feds to bring civil rights charges, while Republicans are opposed, and upstaters, suburbanites, white and older voters are closely divided,” Greenberg said.

“A majority of Democrats, independents, voters from every region and race agree that the Attorney General and not local district attorneys should have authority in cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, although Democrats, New York City voters, blacks and Latinos feel most strongly about this,” Greenberg said.

“Only majorities of Republicans and conservatives think people of color are treated fairly by our criminal justice system. Two-thirds of Democrats and a plurality of independents disagree, as do a majority of downstaters, particularly New York City, and people of color. Whites and upstaters are closely divided,” Greenberg said.

Big Thumbs Down for Legislative Pay Raise
“An issue that unifies New York voters is a legislative pay raise. It’s opposed by strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, downstaters and upstaters – upstaters really hate the idea – blacks and whites, young and old,” Greenberg said.

The State Assembly is viewed favorably by 39 percent of voters and unfavorably by 41 percent (little changed from 40-44 percent in September, among, then, likely voters) and the State Senate has a negative 41-44 percent favorability rating (little changed from September’s 40-46 percent rating).

New Yorkers Continue to Strongly Support the SAFE Act
“Enacted almost two years ago, the SAFE Act continues to be supported by a strong majority of voters. Opposed by only Republicans and conservatives, the SAFE Act is supported by 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents, 67 percent of voters from New York City and 61 percent from the downstate suburbs. Upstate voters are evenly divided between supporters and opponents,” Greenberg said. “The 58-33 percent support statewide for the SAFE Act is down only slightly from 63-32 percent support for it back in March.”

Dream Act Divides Voters Statewide, and Along Partisan, Racial and Geographic Lines
“New Yorkers remain divided on the Dream Act, whether the wording of the question is to provide higher education financial aid to the children of ‘undocumented immigrants’ or ‘illegal aliens.’ When the split sample of the differently worded questions are combined it has the support of 44 percent and is opposed by 48 percent, little changed from 48-47 percent support in April,” Greenberg said. “Democrats, New York City voters, young people and people of color strongly support the Dream Act. It is opposed strongly by Republicans and upstaters, and opposed by whites, downstate suburbanites and older voters.”

Even As Cuomo Administration Makes Fracking Decision, Voters Remain Divided on Issue
“The announcement this week by the Governor that fracking will not move forward in New York will make 38 percent of voters happy, while 35 percent will be disappointed,” Greenberg said. “Fracking has closely divided New Yorkers for several years. And while it has the intuitive partisan divide with Democrats opposing and Republicans supporting, from a regional perspective the results might be a little counterintuitive as New York City and upstate voters narrowly oppose fracking and a plurality of downstate suburbanites support it.”

Looking ahead to 2016 presidential primaries, among registered Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the support of 58 percent, compared to 11 percent for Elizabeth Warren, eight percent for Joe Biden, and five percent for Andrew Cuomo. Four percent of Democrats volunteered another choice, while 14 percent are undecided. Among registered Republicans, Chris Christie is supported by 25 percent, followed by Mitt Romney (18 percent), Jeb Bush (14 percent), Rand Paul (seven percent), Paul Ryan (five percent), Marco Rubio (four percent), and Ted Cruz (two percent), with six percent volunteering other names and 19 percent undecided.

“The big names have the early leads. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is the runaway favorite with – at the moment – nobody even closely challenging her among voters in her adopted home state,” Greenberg said. “For the Republicans, it is a much more crowded field and a much tighter race at this point. The leader is neighboring Governor Chris Christie, with a seven-point lead over 2012 standard bearer Mitt Romney. Presidential son and brother Jeb Bush is four points behind Romney, with four other prominent Republicans all in single digits.”

Cuomo Favorability Rebounds a Little; Voters Say He’s Made NY Better; Uncertain About Next 4 Years
Cuomo has a 58-37 percent favorability rating (up from 54-43 percent among likely voters in October), and 52 percent say he’s made New York a better place to live in the last four years, with 14 percent saying it’s worse and 26 percent saying it’s about the same. Twenty-four percent are optimistic about the next four years with Cuomo as governor, 17 are pessimistic and 58 percent are somewhere in the middle.

“While Cuomo’s favorability rose a little since the election, it remains considerably lower than it was for most of his first term. Still, most voters give him credit for making New York a better place to live over the last four years, even while only one-quarter say they are optimistic about the next four years,” Greenberg said.

This Siena College Poll was conducted December 11-16, 2014 by telephone calls to 639 New York State registered voters. It has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. Data was statistically adjusted by age, party, region, and gender to ensure representativeness. Sampling was conducted via random digit dialing to landline and cell phones weighted to reflect known population patterns. The Siena College Research Institute, directed by Donald Levy, Ph.D., conducts political, economic, social and cultural research primarily in New York State. SRI, an independent, non-partisan research institute, subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. For more information, call Steve Greenberg at (518) 469-9858. For survey cross-tabs: