Albany Corruption Is Serious Problem

NY state building

Albany Corruption Is Serious Problem, 89% of NYers Say; 2/3 Say Serious Problem with Legislators from Their Area; Majority: (1) Full Time State Legislature; (2) No Pay Raise

Huge Support for Paid Family Leave & Stripping Pensions from Convicted Legislators; Strong Support for Minimum Wage Increase, $300M for EPF, Closing LLC Loophole; Limit Legislators’ Outside Income, $200M Airport Fund

Majority of New Yorkers Oppose Penn Station Plan and Dream Act

Loudonville, NY. Eighty-nine percent of New Yorkers say corruption in state government in Albany is a serious problem – 53 percent call it very serious – and two-thirds say corruption is a serious problem among legislators from their area. It’s time to make the job of state legislator full time and ban outside income, 60 percent say, while 55 percent do not want state legislators to get a raise from the current base salary of $79,500 even if outside income is banned, according to a new Siena College poll of New York State registered voters released today.

Many of the proposals outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his combined budget and State of the State address are very popular with voters. There is overwhelming support for stripping pensions from convicted legislators and enacting paid family leave. More than 60 percent of voters support gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, allocating $300 million to the state Environmental Protection Fund, and eliminating the LLC loophole in campaign contributions. Majorities also support limiting state legislators’ outside income to 15 percent and creating a $200 million fund for upstate airports. But a majority of voters oppose both the Governor’s plan for renovating Penn Station and enacting the Dream Act.

“New Yorkers’ confidence in state government in Albany hovers at historic low levels. Nearly nine in ten voters say corruption is a serious problem in Albany, with more than half saying it’s ‘very’ serious. Nearly two-thirds think corruption among state legislators from their area is a serious problem. The Senate and the Assembly are each viewed favorably by fewer than 40 percent of voters,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

“By a nearly two-to-one margin, 60-34 percent, voters support making legislators full time and banning outside employment,” Greenberg said. “A majority of voters from every party and region support making the Legislature full time and banning outside income, with support greatest in New York City.”

“Even if the Legislature was full time – and all outside income banned – by a 55-42 percent margin, voters give thumbs down to a raise for legislators from their current $79,500 base pay. It’s an issue Democrats, Republicans and independents agree on and while New York City voters are closely divided, downstate suburban and upstate voters are strongly opposed to a pay raise for legislators, even with a ban on outside income,” Greenberg said.

“Two of the Governor’s proposals related to this are strongly supported by voters,” Greenberg said. “By a 70-point margin, 84-14 percent voters support stripping pension payments from state legislators convicted of crimes related to their public service, regardless of when the official was first elected. And by a 59-35 percent margin voters support limiting legislators’ outside income to 15 percent of their salary, or about $12,000 currently.

“As we move into a legislative election year, ethics reform has become a more important issue for voters than it was at the beginning of last year. One-quarter of voters say it’s one of the top two issues they want the Governor to address – up from 19 percent last year, and nearly half of voters say the recent corruption scandals make it less likely that they will re-elect their state legislators,” Greenberg said.

“Cuomo’s paid family leave and minimum wage proposals are strongly supported by New Yorkers,” Greenberg said. “Republicans are the key reason why paid family leave is supported by 80 percent of all voters, while minimum wage is supported by 65 percent. Republicans oppose the Governor’s minimum wage proposal 62-36 percent – differing sharply from Democrats and independents – they support his family leave proposal 69-29 percent, only a little less strongly than Democrats and independents. Employee-funded paid family leave is supported by at least three-quarters of voters from every region. The minimum wage increase is strongly supported downstate and by a much closer 52-46 percent margin among upstate voters.”

“Two Cuomo proposals – the Dream Act and a $3 billion renovation of Penn Station – get a thumbs down from voters,” Greenberg said. “The Dream Act continues to be strongly supported by Democrats and more strongly opposed by Republicans. Strongly supported by New York City voters and strongly opposed by voters outside the City, the overall narrow opposition to the Dream Act has been largely consistent over the last three years.

“Renovating Penn Station – one of the Governor’s high profile, high dollar infrastructure proposals – is strongly opposed by upstate voters, Republicans and independents,” Greenberg said. “Among New York City and downstate suburban voters, as well as Democrats, the results are mixed, as all three are closely divided.”

“Education edges past jobs as the most important issue voters want the Governor to focus on. Taxes remains the third most important issue. However, ethics reform has moved up the list and is now the fourth most important issue, moving up from tied for last place last year,” Greenberg said. “One-quarter of voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents – say that ethics reform is one of the top two issues. That one-quarter number among independents is largely unchanged from last year, while Republicans and Democrats are both up nine points from last year.

“The top three issues for Democrats are education, jobs and ethics; for Republicans are taxes, jobs and education; and for independents are education, taxes and jobs. Regionally, New York City voters see education and jobs as far and away the top two, with health care a distant third; downstate suburbanites focus on education and taxes, with ethics and jobs tied for the third spot; while upstaters say education, with jobs and taxes closely behind,” Greenberg said.

Half of Voters Agree with Gov’s Proposed Ed. Increase; More than Half Say NY Spends Too Little on Ed.
Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, think New York should spend what the Governor is proposing to spend on education aid this year ($24 billion; 4.3 percent increase), while 27 percent want to spend more than the Governor proposes and 23 percent want to spend less. When it comes to overall state spending on education right now, 56 percent say New York spends too little, 27 percent say the right amount and 14 percent say too much.

“A plurality of voters from every region, along with Democrats and independents agree with spending what the Governor proposes for education aid this year, while Republicans are divided between what the Governor proposes and less than what the Governor proposes,” Greenberg said.

“Two-thirds of Democrats, nearly half of independents and a plurality of Republicans think New York spends too little on education, as do a nearly two-thirds of New York City voters, a majority of upstaters and a plurality of downstate suburban voters,” Greenberg said. “Half of white voters say New York spends too little, while more than two-thirds of New Yorkers of color say that.

“The Governor can rightly point to the fact that half of New Yorkers agree with his proposed spending level on education. However, the Legislature traditionally looks to add more money to education and they can correctly point out that a clear majority of New Yorkers think the state spends too little on education,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo Standing with Voters Continues on Plateau of Last Several Months
Cuomo has a 52-43 percent favorability rating, down a little from 51-38 percent in December, and his job performance rating is a negative 42-58 percent, up a little from negative 39-59 percent in December.

“Even with a long agenda of proposals and an aggressive media strategy to support that agenda, voters’ view of Cuomo has not moved out of the range they’ve been hovering in for the last several months. Since July, his favorability rating has been between 49 and 52 percent and his positive job performance rating has been between 39 and 42 percent,” Greenberg said. “Voters, however, have noticed his swing to the left, with more voters calling him liberal, 39 percent, and fewer calling him moderate, 42 percent, than at any time since he took office.

“Cuomo continues to be viewed more favorably than New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – both statewide and among New York City voters,” Greenberg said. “Statewide, de Blasio has a negative 38-46 percent favorability rating, little changed from 37-43 percent in July. Among New York City voters, de Blasio has a 51-45 percent favorability rating, compared to Cuomo’s 66-29 percent. Cuomo also has a stronger favorability rating than de Blasio with Democrats, black and Latino voters.”

Schumer – With No Identified Opponent – Is Viewed Favorably and Supported for Re-Election
Senator Chuck Schumer’s 60-29 percent favorability rating is up slightly from 57-28 percent in December. Fifty-three percent are prepared to re-elect him while 37 percent prefer ‘someone else,’ up slightly from 51-37 percent.

“Two-thirds of Democrats, half of independents and one-third of Republicans say they are prepared to re-elect Schumer, as are a majority of downstaters and a plurality of upstaters,” Greenberg said. “The election is still nine months away, however, with no identified challenger, Republicans face an uphill battle to unseat Schumer, who is seeking a fourth term and is in line to become the Democratic leader of the Senate if he’s re-elected.”

This Siena College Poll was conducted January 24-28, 2016 by telephone calls conducted in English to 805 New York State registered voters. Respondent sampling was initiated by asking for the youngest male in the household. It has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting. Sampling was conducted via a stratified dual frame probability sample provided by Survey Sampling International of landline and cell phone telephone numbers from within New York State weighted to reflect known population patterns. Data was statistically adjusted by age, party, region and gender to ensure representativeness. The Siena College Research Institute, directed by Donald Levy, Ph.D., conducts political, economic, social and cultural research primarily in NYS. 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:


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