With a sky high 64 percent approval rating, Andrew Cuomo is the most popular governor in the New York tri-state region. He is also much more popular than several other new big state governors (see table below). Why is Cuomo enjoying a political honeymoon with the voters, while other governors are sagging in the polls?
The calendar favored Cuomo, whose fiscal year began April 1. Everyone else is still working on a budget starting July 1. All of the normal tensions accompanying the budget process are affecting all the other governors Quinnipiac polls and Cuomo’s done. Besides, he did a good job of deflecting criticism on the two big items – Medicaid and school aid.
Cuomo managed to get a budget done without really alienating anyone. Cuomo didn’t raise taxes, which would have angered Republicans. He also didn’t pick a fight with public employee unions, which would have upset Democrats.
Cuomo also benefited from his big 30 point election win. This meant that Cuomo had a real mandate from the voters. His landslide victory gave him the political clout to strike fear in those state legislators who might have attacked Cuomo’s budget.
Although Cuomo may have preferred to have the state legislature controlled by the Democrats, having divided government may be a blessing in disguise for Cuomo. With the Republicans controlling the State Senate, Cuomo knew that it would be very difficult to get a tax increase passed in the state legislature, even if he had wanted one.
Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy didn’t have such luck. Democrats control the state legislature in Connecticut. He has put forward a very unpopular tax increase to help balance the state budget, which has resulted in his low job approval rating. Unlike Cuomo, Malloy did not start out with much of a cushion in terms of voter support. Malloy won his race by the narrowest of margins, less than a percentage point. He has lost the support of many of the people who voted for him, with only 35 percent approving of the job he is doing.
New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie’s popularity is higher than Malloy’s but lower than Cuomo’s. Christie’s approval rating is at a decent level, just above 50 percent. Like New York State, New Jersey has divided government , as the Democrats control the state legislature. This may be one of the reasons why Christie hasn’t tried to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, which is something legislative Democrats would not support. Had he gone after collective bargaining for public employees, like Governor Kasich in Ohio, perhaps his polling numbers would also have dropped dramatically.
It is ironic that Andrew Cuomo, who could have afforded to take the biggest political risks because of his huge election victory, chose the safest political course, while governors Kasich, Malloy, and Scott, who just barely squeaked out victories and had less room for error have taken bigger risks. We are now witnessing “voter remorse” in Ohio, Connecticut and Florida as these governors who won their races with only 49 percent of the vote, now have early approval ratings of 35 percent or less. Malloy is a Democrat, while Kasich and Scott are Republicans but what they have in common are legislatures controlled by their party. Could this have led these governors to perhaps “overreach” by putting forth proposals popular to their base but not attracting voters from the other party? If there was divided government in these states, perhaps these governors might have tried harder to reach across party lines. Such bipartisanship might have given a boost to their political standing.
Most recent approval ratings for Governors in Quinnipiac University Polls