New York City voters are poised to choose Bill de Blasio as their next mayor by a landslide ratio of almost 3 to 1 amid broad consensus that he is the best choice to improve schools, create affordable housing and give the middle class and poor a better break than they've had in the Bloomberg years, an amNewYork-News 12 poll found.
Democrat de Blasio leads Republican Joe Lhota 64 percent to 23 percent, with 4 percent choosing other candidates and 8 percent undecided. But not all voters siding with de Blasio give across-the-board support to his agenda, and many aren't confident he can fulfill a key campaign vow, according to the survey conducted by polling firm Penn Schoen Berland.
"New Yorkers' expectations for de Blasio as a change agent are quite high. Despite the fact that New Yorkers like him so much, they have concerns that he won't be able to get done what he has promised," pollster Mike Berland said.
By 65 percent to 30 percent, voters favor de Blasio's proposal to hike taxes on New Yorkers earning more than $500,000 to fund universal prekindergarten and after-school programs over Lhota's pledge not to raise taxes. But de Blasio's plan would require approval in Albany, and by 49 percent to 38 percent, the poll respondents don't believe he would win that fight.
"I do support taxation, although whether it will be able to pass is a whole 'nother question," said poll respondent Leta Weintraub, 71, a retired Manhattan social worker. "It depends on how capable de Blasio is once he gets into that position."
De Blasio maintains the tax hike could pass by the legislature if public opinion supports it.
According to the poll, de Blasio's plan to limit the growth of charter schools is favored by only 47 percent, while 40 percent echo Lhota's position that the city needs more charter schools.
But New Yorkers like de Blasio. He enjoys a 71 percent to 23 percent favorability rating. Lhota's unfavorable rating, 41 percent, exceeds his favorable rating of 39 percent.
"De Blasio is smooth and articulate, which gives New Yorkers confidence," Berland said. "He makes Lhota look, by contrast, small, mean and feisty, which is not what New Yorkers want right now."
The sample of 801 likely New York City voters conducted Oct. 15-19 had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points. Among its findings:
Voters ranked the economy and jobs, public education and affordable housing as the top three issues. Among the voters with those priorities, large majorities favored de Blasio. Lhota was a closer second for those who cared most about the fourth-ranked issue, crime and safety. He argues de Blasio's plans would cause crime to surge.
A 58 percent majority of voters want the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy modified but kept as a tool -- a stance de Blasio backs -- while 19 percent would leave it as it is, as Lhota urges.
70 percent thought it was time for a change from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policies, even as 60 percent approved of the job he's done. Among those who want a change from the Bloomberg agenda, de Blasio is preferred 74 percent to 13 percent.
After 12 years under Bloomberg, majorities wanted city government to provide fewer incentives and favorable policies for corporations and developers while doing more for small business and workers. More than two-thirds believed that under Bloomberg city government paid too much attention to the rich and not enough to the middle class and poor.
"To some degree, they admire what Bloomberg has done, but at the same time, they're tired of it," said Alan Chartock, University at Albany professor emeritus of political science. For de Blasio, "it comes down to the assurance that 'I can make your life better.' "
Sean Johnsen, 39, a Staten Island Republican, said he voted three times for Bloomberg but now leans to de Blasio.
"I think he's more of a people person," said Johnsen, an unemployed IT worker. "We definitely need a change in New York." As for Lhota, Johnsen said, "I think he's going to go for the rich."
De Blasio admits there are limits on what the city's mayor can accomplish in combating the gap between rich and poor, even as he argued a significant dent can be made.
Asked by the amNewYork editorial board Monday whether the mayor can affect income inequality, the candidate said, "Affect? Yes, they can. Solve every element of inequality? I never said we could, never said we could solve it all from the position of New York City mayor's office."
A mayor can work, he said, to "foster job creation, to push up wages and benefits, to improve the education that will give people access to better incomes going forth."
Poll respondent David Lansner, 66, of Park Slope, supports de Blasio but is critical of him on some points, including what he called pandering to unions. But Lansner said there's still reason to keep faith in much of de Blasio's agenda and his tax plan.
"Sometimes you do get unrealistic things through, so it's worth pushing and talking about what some of our problems and the solutions are," said Lanser, a Democrat and child welfare and civil rights attorney.
With Matthew Chayes
How the survey was done
Penn Schoen Berland designed and administered the survey for amNewYork-News 12, which was conducted by telephone using professional interviewers Oct. 15-19.
The survey reached a total of 801 registered voters in New York City who are likely to vote in the Nov. 5 general election. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated from a list of registered voters in New York City and included both landline and cellphones.
The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.46 percentage points and larger for subgroups.
The survey is fully representative of likely general election voters in New York City. To ensure a comprehensive representation of the likely electorate, the data was slightly weighted by gender, age and borough.