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Governor Hochul gets her highest poll numbers to date

governor kathy hochul in wny
Darren McGee/Darren McGee- Office of Governor
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Gov. Kathy Hochul makes an economic development announcement in Dunkirk Jan. 23, 2023.

A new poll out Monday shows Governor Kathy Hochul with her highest job approval and favorability ratings since taking office, with the majority of New York voters backing Hochul’s 2023 goals, including, making more changes to the state’s controversial bail reform laws.

Hochul’s job approval rating is at 56 percent, (to 36 percent who think she’s doing a poor job), and her favorability rating, at 48 percent, is the best score that voters have given the governor since she began the job nearly a year and a half ago.

“Right now voters like Kathy Hochul, approve of the job that she’s doing as governor, more than they have in the past,” said Siena College polling spokesman Steve Greenberg.

The governor made gains among independent voters, who now narrowly approve of Hochul, at 47 percent to 43 percent, and people who live in the suburbs surrounding New York City, where 53 percent back her.

In a poll conducted last December, Hochul received some of her lowest ratings ever.

Hochul took over for former Governor Andrew Cuomo when he resigned in disgrace in August of 2021. Since then, she survived a close election campaign that featured numerous negative advertisements aimed at the governor. Greenberg says now that it’s been a couple of months since Election Day, the affects of those ads may be wearing off. He says Hochul also received positive media coverage for her Inaugural Address and State of the State message earlier this month. The poll finds that the majority of New Yorkers like her plans to build more affordable housing, improve mental health care, and raise the minimum wage. They also back her plan to further revise the 2019 bail reform laws to give judges more discretion to set bail for those accused of serious crimes.

This may surprise listeners,” Greenberg said. “61 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 68 percent of democrats support it.”

Democrats who hold supermajorities in both houses of the legislature have been resistant to amending the bail reform laws.

Republicans, who are in the minority in both houses, want to go further, and repeal bail reform and other criminal justice changes enacted in the past few years.

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, speaking at a news conference by republicans at the Capitol Monday, cited the poll’s finding the crime rates in the state remain a major concern. He says 93 percent of New Yorkers are concerned about crime, and he blames in part bail reform and other criminal justice changes.

“Because of these reforms, we’ve compromised public safety,” Barclay said. “We’ve undermined law enforcement’s ability to do their job, and we’ve hamstrung judges by stripping away their ability to keep imprisoned violent criminals without bail.”

The only one of Hochul’s proposals that is not supported by New Yorkers is to raise tuition at public colleges and universities. That proposal is opposed by 62 percent of those surveyed.

And, while Hochul’s standing with the public has improved, she is less popular with some members of the New York State legislature, who she will need to help carry about her proposals in upcoming state budget negotiation.

A disagreement between the governor and Democrats in the Senate over Hochul’s nominee for New York’s chief judge has soured relations. The Senate Judiciary Committee last week rejected Hochul’s choice of Justice Hector LaSalle. But the governor says the entire Senate needs to vote on the nominee, and has threatened legal action to force a floor vote

The normally peace- seeking Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins last Friday issued a warning to Hochul and her supporters, saying, in a statement, that the “ongoing attack” is “a dangerous infringement of the separation of powers”.

Stewart-Cousins says LaSalle was rejected, following a five hour hearing, because of his record.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.