Gov. Cuomo approval ratings affected by MTA issues

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Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Transit woes may have sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political prospects and his approval ratings into reverse, two new polls suggest.

A Quinnipiac poll shows that only 46 percent of New York voters approve of the job Cuomo is doing, while 38 percent disapprove. This is a drop from a poll in March, when he had a 52 percent approval rating.

This is his lowest approval rating since a Sept. 17, 2015, poll, which put his approval-disapproval rating at 43-43. At the time, voters disapproved of his handling of education and government issues.

A Siena College poll, which polled 793 voters statewide, meanwhile shows an approval rating for Cuomo of 52 percent. This is the lowest Siena has measured since February 2016, which also had him at 52 percent, as well as a nine point drop from May.

The hot button issue in both is the “summer of hell,” referring to expected delays and a drastic schedule shuffling to accommodate Amtrak’s repairs to Penn Station’s long neglected infrastructure. The repairs have shut down three tracks at the terminal.

“It appears likely that a major reason for Cuomo’s lower poll numbers relate to issues surrounding the MTA, for which only about one-quarter of voters — downstate and upstate — rate Cuomo positively,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. “While Cuomo’s re-elect and job performance ratings fell by 23 and 27 points, respectively, among voters in the MTA region, they both ticked down only a single point among voters not in the MTA region.”

Statewide only 4 percent of voters gave Cuomo an “A” grade for his handling of the MTA, while 17 percent gave him an “F” and 15 percent a “D” in the Quinnipiac poll.

Quinnipiac’s telephone poll of 1,137 New York voters was conducted from July 5-10 in the final countdown to the “summer of hell” starting, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Peter Salins, university professor of political science at Stony Brook University, said Cuomo’s chances of re-election as governor are still high though.

While Cuomo received failing grades from many voters on transit, Salins said, few state politicians are equipped to challenge him and there are many other issues.

“Ultimately, the governor’s going to be judged on things beyond transit,” he said. “But the governor has put a lot of stock on supposedly being a brilliant infrastructure guy.”

Stephanie Sapiie, a professor of political science at Nassau Community College, also said that issues with the MTA will not hurt him too much — so long as LIRR riders face few issues.

“If that gets resolved with relatively little disruption, I think on transit issues he’s not going to be impacted that much,” Sapiie said.

When it comes to national prospects, however, Cuomo’s handling of transit issues could be an issue should he decide to run for president in 2020.

“One ticking time bomb for Gov. Cuomo is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority,” said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “Voters don’t give the governor good marks on handling that. A couple more derailments or just overall weariness with traveling on trains could derail his political prospects.”

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