New York voters back Cuomo in sexual harassment controversy, says poll

The governor’s popularity has dropped from stratospheric heights in the early days of the pandemic

Governor Andrew Cuomo removes his mask during a visit to a Covid-19 vaccination site, March 15, 2021, at the State University of New York in Old Westbury. The site is scheduled to open on Friday. / AFP / POOL / Mark Lennihan
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Andrew Cuomo’s bid to ride out controversies over sexual harassment and mishandling of Covid-19 were buoyed on Monday with the release of a poll suggesting that voters backed the New York governor.

Most New York voters were satisfied with Mr Cuomo’s explanation of the sexual harassment allegations made against him and about a third wanted him to resign, according to a poll from Siena College Research Institute.

The governor faces accusations of sexual misconduct levelled by at least seven women, including former aides, and faces pressure after revelations that his administration held back the number of care home residents killed by Covid-19 in the state.

“Voters appear to be able to compartmentalise how they feel about Cuomo,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement on Monday.

“While their views on him generally – favorability, job performance, re-elect – took a significant hit this month, voters’ views on Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic remain largely positive, except for his handling of nursing home death data.”

According to the survey of more than 800 voters this month, half of the respondents surveyed said the third-term governor should not resign, while slightly more than a third said he should step down.

Some 57 per cent of voters said they were satisfied with how Mr Cuomo had addressed the allegations of sexual impropriety, compared to 32 per cent who were not satisfied. About 35 per cent said the governor had committed sexual harassment, while 24 per said he had not.

Still, Mr Cuomo’s favorability rating has tanked, with 43 per cent viewing him favourably now and 45 per cent viewing him unfavourably – a stark contrast to his 56-39 rating from before the controversy in February.

The governor’s favorability rating hit a high of 77 per cent early last year when New York was the global epicentre of the pandemic and Mr Cuomo’s straight-talking daily press briefings comforted many.

Mr Cuomo, 63, has repeatedly denied allegations of harassment, saying he never meant to make any of the women who have complained about his suggestive comments and unwanted touching feel uncomfortable.

Last week, New York’s two Democratic senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer as well as many state politicians, including progressive Democratic House of Representatives member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, urged Mr Cuomo to resign.

However, President Joe Biden and Democratic US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday declined to join the calls for Mr Cuomo’s resignation, saying they would wait for the results of an investigation into wrongdoing.