Poll: Voters unhappy with what's going on in state
Web linksFlash: The Future of Long Island
Voter dissatisfaction with New York State politics these days is wide and deep, with nearly 70 percent of registered voters unhappy about the way things are going in the state generally, according to a new survey by Newsday and Hofstra University.
Long Islanders, more than most across the state, are upset about the state's direction, and are somewhat more likely to want to replace their representatives in Congress and the State Legislature.
Nonetheless, New Yorkers aren't willing to accept cuts in services and other possible solutions to what they identify as one of the state's most pressing problems - a looming $9-billion budget deficit.
More than half the voters polled rejected seven possible remedies for the deficit offered in the poll, reacting most strongly against cuts in services like health care and public transportation.
The survey of 1,500 voters statewide - to be released Thursday at a symposium at Hofstra - illustrates starkly that voters are angry, frustrated and looking to elect new leaders.
"There's a perception that there's no leadership in Albany and that there are no recognized leaders driving the debate," said Evans Witt, chief executive of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, a private firm that conducted the poll.
"Behind a lot of people's unhappiness is the current economic situation," Witt said, noting that unemployment, jobs and the economy surfaced in the survey as the most important problems facing New Yorkers.
Among the poll's findings:
Seventy-one percent of Long Islanders disapprove of Gov. David A. Paterson's performance, with members of the State Senate and Assembly not doing much better.
Seventy percent of New Yorkers agreed that state government "needs major, structural reforms."
Yet Long Islanders appear somewhat more optimistic that the state's problems can be fixed with the proper leadership: Fifty percent of Nassau and Suffolk voters agreed that "state government will work just fine if we can just elect better people to office," compared to 45 percent statewide.
Long Islanders also may be more civic-minded than others: Forty-eight percent said they attended a local meeting on municipal or school affairs in the past year, compared to 40 percent statewide and only 24 percent cited in a comparable national poll.
Despite the widespread disaffection with Albany, the poll shows many voters largely reject cutting education aid or raising the state income tax or even reducing state employee salaries and benefits.
On Long Island, where voters on Tuesday approved new school budgets in 114 out of 124 districts, 87 percent oppose raising property taxes if New York State cuts education aid to school districts. And 72 percent oppose laying off teachers and staff.
Sixty-two percent of Long Islanders oppose cutting programs and services in schools. They were more evenly divided about increasing the number of students in each class, with 42 percent in favor and 53 percent opposed.
Overall, Witt said the poll, which sampled the views of 300 Long Islanders, highlights some of the deep antipathy that New Yorkers have developed toward their elected state leaders. The past several years have seen a variety of scandals that forced the departure of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and prompted Paterson not to run this November.
As one indicator of voter alienation, he pointed out the response of 67 percent of Long Islanders who agreed that "state public officials don't care what people like me think." In another response, 78 percent statewide agreed that "politicians often promise to make state government work better, but they never do."
In a pretty gloomy political picture, one comparative bright spot is the standing of President Barack Obama, with 62 percent of New Yorkers and 52 percent of Long Islanders approving of his performance. But Long Islanders, more often than not, don't want to see their current representative in the State Senate, Assembly and Congress re-elected this November.
The poll, taken in English from April 19 to May 9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The smaller pool of Long Island voters has a sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.
LIVE: Watch a panel of leaders discuss this poll, and NY's future, today at Hofstra University