Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano remains popular even though a majority of Nassau residents say the county is heading in the wrong direction, primarily because of its perilous fiscal health, according to a new Newsday/Siena Research Institute poll.
Forty-eight percent of voters -- including a majority of Republicans and independents -- gave Republican Mangano a favorable rating, compared with 33 percent unfavorable, according to the poll of 620 registered Nassau voters questioned between July 14 though 19. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said the county is headed in the wrong direction while 30 percent said it is on the right track. And 46 percent said the takeover by the state Nassau Interim Finance Authority board has had little impact.
Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said the figures show that voters don't necessarily blame Mangano for the county's fiscal ills. "He's doing pretty darn good for a second-year county executive," Greenberg said.
NIFA, which calculated a $176 million budget deficit in January, last week estimated Nassau's fiscal "risks" at $118.8 million despite Mangano's efforts to cut costs through layoffs, early retirements and a police reorganization.
Fifty-four percent described Nassau's fiscal condition as poor, while 33 percent pegged it as fair. Twelve percent characterized the local economy as excellent or good. And 63 percent expressed little to no confidence that conditions would improve within the next year.
"Government is not really going in the right direction financially," said Arthur Smith, 85, of Glen Head, a retired high school guidance counselor. "And where it is, it's more like 'too little too late.' "
But Kara Benedetto, 21, of Merrick, a receptionist for a corporate employment referral service, said she did not blame county leaders for Nassau's poor economy.
"I think all of our government leaders are trying to do the right thing, but taxes are a little too high," she said. "I'm not blaming anybody for that. That's just the way it is, I guess."
"County Executive Mangano inherited a dysfunctional government that taxed too high, spent too much, and reformed too little," said county spokesman Brian Nevin. "Since taking office . . . Mangano has reversed this trend by blocking a 16.5 percent property tax increase, placing money back in our residents' pockets through the elimination of the home energy tax and by cutting over $170 million in government spending."
Nearly half of respondents said the NIFA takeover has had little impact on the county; 21 percent believe the watchdog has been a net positive, while 9 percent said the board has caused more harm than good. Almost one quarter of voters had no opinion on the takeover.
The six-member NIFA board remains something of a mystery to voters, Greenberg said. Thirty-two percent of those polled had an unfavorable opinion about the board. Thirty percent had a favorable opinion and 38 percent had no opinion. NIFA officials declined to comment.
While voters also harbor concerns about the health of the state's economy, they see hope on the horizon, the poll shows.
Forty-six percent of respondents said the state is heading in the right direction, compared with 42 percent who argue it's going the wrong way. Twelve percent offered no opinion.
And 75 percent of Nassau respondents have a favorable view of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reflecting statewide results. That support cut across party lines, with 65 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats viewing the governor favorably. Cuomo's office declined to comment.
On another source of angst among Nassau voters, the property assessment system, 40 percent of polltakers said the appraisal system has not improved within the past year and 30 percent said it had gotten worse. With Sid Cassese