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Handling of migrant crisis a factor in Gov. Hochul's historic low in new poll

A woman in a light brown blazer and white blouse stands behind a lectern.
Don Pollard
Gov. Hochul in July 2023.

A new poll finds that 82 percent of New Yorkers are concerned about the state’s migrant crisis, which they view as a “serious” problem. Miss steps among elected leaders in the state who are handling the crisis may be a contributing factor to Governor Kathy Hochul’s record low favorability rating.

The influx of tens of thousands of asylum seekers into New York City over the past few months has led to increased tensions and finger pointing between City Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Hochul, who up until now have been democratic allies. It’s also led to recriminations between the City and upstate communities, after busloads of migrants have been sent to hotels in the Hudson Valley, Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, with little warning to community leaders.

Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg says New Yorkers have noticed, and are increasingly concerned about the seeming disarray.

“New Yorkers are paying attention to the issue of the recent influx of migrants to the state. They think it's a serious problem. In fact, 82 percent of New Yorkers say it's a serious problem. 54 percent say it's a very serious problem. Only 16 percent say it's not a problem at all, or not very much of a problem. And it's across the board.”

He says 77 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of independents and 89 percent of Republicans all say it’s serious problem.

The poll asked respondents how they rank their elected leaders’ response to the crisis, and found 51 percent disapprove of the governor’s handling of the crisis, compared with 35 percent who think she’s doing a good job with it. Adams, and President Joe Biden, also receive low marks for their policies managing the migrants.

Disapproval over the crisis is likely a contributing factor to Hochul’s record low approval ratings. Greenberg says has just a 40 percent favorability rating, down from a high of 56 percent back in January, shortly after she was elected to the post by a relatively narrow margin.

“It's the worst her and her favorable or unfavorable rating have been. So she's in a tough spot has been over the last six months. Certainly her handling of the migrant issue does not help her numbers.

New Yorkers are split on whether they approve of the job that Hochul is doing in office, at 46 to 46 percent.

Hochul earlier this week announced a win in her quest to get the federal government to help with the state’s migrant crisis. The Biden Administration agreed to let the state use Floyd Bent Field, a former military air station to house up to 2,000 single adults. And the governor announced the state will invest $20 million in caseworkers to help expedite the asylum seekers paperwork.

The governor is frequently asked by the media about her policies regarding migrants and she often lists the steps she’s taken to try to help with the crisis.

“The state of New York is very engaged in handling the migrant situation, we have committed over $1 billion, but that number is now approaching $1.5 billion. We've added significant personnel resources National Guard continues to be at sites in the city as well as Upstate upon the request of county executives, also sites we need places for these individually housed,” the governor said Monday.

But according to the poll, most people in the state don’t think that’s enough.

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.