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Gov. Kathy Hochul's poll numbers rise to the highest they've been since she took office

Hochul shaking hands in a candid photo, surrounded by people clapping
Don Pollard
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul greets state lawmakers at her State of the State address on Jan. 10, 2023.

A new poll out Monday shows Gov. 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%, while 36% of respondents think she’s doing a poor job. Her favorability rating of 48% 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 Steve Greenberg, Siena College polling spokesman.

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

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

Hochul took over for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he resigned in disgrace in August 2021. Since then, she survived a close election campaign that featured numerous negative advertisements aimed at her. Greenberg said now that it’s been a couple of months since Election Day, the effects of those ads may be wearing off.

He said 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% of Republicans, 63% of independents and 68% 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 Monday at a news conference held by Republicans at the Capitol, cited the poll’s finding that crime rates in the state remain a major concern. He said 93% of New Yorkers are worried 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 Hochul proposal that is not supported by New Yorkers is one that would raise tuition at public colleges and universities. That proposal is opposed by 62% of those surveyed.

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 out her proposals in upcoming state budget negotiations.

A disagreement between the governor and Senate Democrats 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 said the entire Senate needs to vote on the nominee, and she 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 said LaSalle was rejected after a five-hour hearing because of his record.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.