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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Poll shows Long Islanders’ concern over public corruption

Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was

Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges in December 2015, will receive $95,831 a year in his state pension. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Let’s take a deeper walk through the Newsday/News12/Siena College poll results on Long Islanders and their views on local government corruption.

As Newsday reported in Sunday’s editions, a staggering 81 percent of Nassau and Suffolk respondents agreed with this statement: “Corruption costs every taxpayer dollars and it damages our democracy, we must find ways to end corruption in politics once and for all.”

Eighty-one percent.

That high a number amounts to a regional cri du cœur — a cry from the heart — for change in what increasingly Long Islanders see as the disconnection between government corruption — which benefits the few — and government service — which is supposed to benefit the public.

But if 81 percent seems high, a trek through the poll’s cross- tabulations should drive home the region’s anger. How important an issue “is corruption among local government officials?,” 984 respondents were asked in another poll question.

A sky-high 93 percent of respondents answered “very or somewhat important.” But let’s break that down again. Let’s see how far and how wide that concern over corruption goes, in a portion of the poll that has between a four- and five-percentage point margin of error.

How important an issue is local government corruption to Nassau residents? Ninety-four percent said very or somewhat important. And on that, Suffolk statistically tied, with 93 percent giving the same answer.

What about gender? Well, that’s close as well — with 92 percent of men citing local government corruption as very or somewhat important; with women weighing in higher, at 95 percent.

Age? A whopping 92 percent of Long Islanders 18 to 54 years old called the issue very or somewhat important. And for those over 55 — a fast-growing population in Nassau and Suffolk, which includes the generation that made the region the nation’s first post-World War II suburb — the rate was 95 percent.

Politics? Well, for once, on Poll Question Number 15, there was zero difference between Republican and Democrat respondents, at 95 percent each. As for other parties? Respondents who described themselves at independent, other, liberal, moderate or conservative weighed in with concern about local government corruption between 92 and 94 percent,

Again, these are big percentages. Huuuugeeee even. And concern about local government corruption remained such — in percentages ranging from 91 to 96 — across racial, educational, religious and income lines.

Solutions?

Sixty six percent favored banning political contributions by companies that do business with the level of government associated with those contributions. Respondents with incomes above $100,000 a year — with a 73 percent showing — agreed at rates higher than those in lower income brackets.

Barring government officials from earning incomes outside their public job? More than half of respondents voiced that preference — with Democrats and Republicans in sync once again.

Agreement didn’t extend to public financing of elections, however — with 62 percent of Democrats agreeing, far above the 46 percent of Republicans who felt the same way.

But the big winner among solutions, locking in at 78 percent, was revoking pensions from public officials convicted of felonies, no matter their length of service. And that pretty much held steady across all categories.

Of course, a single poll, even one with percentages this high, will not drive public policy — although it should put the region’s elected officials on notice. But even then nothing’s guaranteed, especially if Long Island continues a sad trend not addressed in the poll: its 15-year low in voting last November.

With numbers like that, nothing can change.

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