BY MICHAEL GARETH JOHNSON
Andrew Cuomo was literally born and raised in Queens, attending St. Gerard Majella School in Hollis and then Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood in the 1960s and 1970s. It seems the native son is still the favorite son, according to an exclusive poll commissioned by the Queens Tribune. The poll surveyed Democratic voters just ahead of the Thursday, Sept. 13, primary in which Cuomo is facing a spirited challenge from actor and activist Cynthia Nixon.
Cuomo captured 60 percent of support in the poll to Nixon’s 15.1 percent, with 25 percent of the electorate still unsure whom they were going to back. Cuomo is seeking his third term in office. His tenure has been marred by a series of corruption scandals involving close aides and staffers, including the conviction of Joe Percoco, a longtime friend of the governor who was widely seen as his most trusted aide.
Cynthia Nixon has tried to position herself to the left of Cuomo, specifically campaigning on the unfair distribution of education funding to New York City. She has also taken the governor to task for his failure to maintain and improve the city’s subway system. She has held multiple campaign rallies and made numerous stops in Queens, riding the 7 train during one of those events to highlight the delays many New Yorkers experience.
The poll was conducted from Aug. 27 to 29 using a sample size of 840 registered Democrats with a history of voting in recent primary elections. The poll was done in Spanish and English and has a 3.37 percent margin of error.
Cuomo has support across all ethnic backgrounds, but he sees his greatest backing from black and Latino voters. Both groups support him at 75 percent, with only 9 percent of black respondents backing Nixon and only 6 percent of Hispanics supporting her. Asian voters also overwhelmingly back Cuomo: 62 percent to 5 percent for Nixon.
We see a similar ethnic breakdown of support for the governor when asking about his job approval. While 38 percent of all Democrats say he is doing a good job, 53 percent of black respondents and 50 percent of Latinos answered that he is doing a good job. Most people said Cuomo was doing an OK job—45 percent—and only 16.6 percent said he was doing a bad job.
The governor’s numbers were also significantly better than those of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had more Queens Democrats saying he was doing a bad job than a good one—33.4 percent for bad to 25.2 percent for good, with 41.3 percent responding that he is doing an OK job.
One trend that appears to be real is the much-opined-about Democratic voter enthusiasm. In our survey, 30.9 percent of people said they are excited about the election cycle, with 42.6 percent saying they are interested. The remaining 26.5 percent said they were either not interested or didn’t care. White voters were the most-enthusiastic ethnic group, with blacks and Latinos slightly less interested. Asian voters were the least excited about the election cycle.
Based on this survey, it appears much of the enthusiasm of Queens Democratic voters is going to be helpful to Gov. Cuomo in the Thursday, Sept. 13, primary. One of the difficulties with polling is identifying new voters or first-time voters. This is a flaw we are keenly aware of in our survey. Earlier this year in the 14th Congressional District, representing parts of Queens and the Bronx, powerful veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley was upset by political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—in part because her campaign was able to identify new voters and get them to the polls. It is unclear if Nixon will be able to duplicate this same strategy in a statewide race, but she does have the backing of Ocasio-Cortez.
It does not seem likely that Nixon’s focus on education and the subway system, even coupled with the endorsement of Ocasio-Cortez, will be enough to sway the borough to her. But we at the Queens Tribune are excited to see the vote totals when they come in next week.