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Polls show Paterson's job approval sliding down

ALBANY - After several months of improvement, Gov. David A. Paterson's job approval rating slid in two polls released Wednesday and voters dismissed fears of racial tension arising from a possible primary challenge of Paterson by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

A Marist College Poll found 26 percent of registered voters believe Paterson is doing either an excellent or good job, down from 31 percent in mid-January. Forty percent graded him as fair and 30 percent said poor.

Similarly, a Quinnipiac University Poll showed 37 percent of voters approve of the job Paterson is doing while 54 percent disapprove, down from December's 40-49 ratio.

The governor "continues to have serious problems . . . across party lines and throughout the state," said Marist pollster Lee M. Miringoff. He noted that on Long Island and in the other suburbs, zero percent of voters said Paterson was doing an excellent job while 21 percent said good; 45 percent, fair, and 31 percent, poor.

Miringoff and others blamed the dip in Paterson's approval rating on his proposed 2010-11 budget, which calls for cuts to education aid, parks and other popular programs. He had boosted his numbers last fall by championing fiscal austerity.

As they have for months, both polls showed Cuomo beating Paterson in a hypothetical Democratic primary and trouncing Republican Rick Lazio, a former congressman from Brightwaters, in a hypothetical general election.

However, Quinnipiac found little support for the contention by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) and others that a Cuomo-Paterson primary would be racially divisive. Eighty percent of all voters and 73 percent of blacks said a primary wouldn't exacerbate racial tensions.

In the race for Senate, Quinnipiac found incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand with a 2-1 lead over former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who is mulling a primary challenge. Gillibrand would beat Republican Bruce Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, 44-27.

The Quinnipiac survey of 2,182 voters, conducted Jan. 27 through Monday, had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.1 percentage points. The Marist poll of 838, conducted Jan. 25-27, had a margin of 3.5 points.

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