Less than 11 months after strutting into office with a mandate, Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's standing among voters is now in a free-fall, a new poll has found, as only one-quarter of New Yorkers say they would vote for him if he were running today.
The governor's favorability among registered voters has sunk to 41 percent, its lowest level in the Siena Research Institute poll since he took office in January.
Forty-nine percent said they would prefer someone else as governor if the election were held today.
"It is stunning," Siena Research Institute spokesman Steve Greenberg said of Spitzer's rapid decline.
The poll of 625 registered voters was taken Nov. 5-8. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The Democratic governor's numbers started declining during the summer, when it was revealed that his top aides were engaged in a campaign to use the State Police to try to discredit his chief political rival, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick.
But the chief reason now is his recent plan to permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. The Siena poll found that 70 percent of the respondents oppose that policy.
Spitzer's fellow Democrats oppose the plan, 55 percent to 36 percent, while 39 percent of voters overall strongly oppose it, compared with just 5 percent who strongly support it.
For Spitzer, the poll results are sobering: Only 25 percent of registered voters -- and just 37 percent of Democrats -- would back him in an election today.
While 70 percent oppose giving licenses to illegal immigrants, 65 percent said they also oppose his revised plan from two weeks ago that would create three different licenses, including one that undocumented immigrants could obtain.
Nearly two-thirds reject Spitzer's contention that the plan will make roads safer by getting more illegal immigrants to take driver's tests and possibly get insurance, and fully half believe that such a policy would pose a national security risk.
For the first time since taking office, Spitzer is being viewed unfavorably by more New Yorkers than view him favorably.
His 41 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable in November compares with 54 percent favorable to 36 percent unfavorable a month earlier.
As for job performance, 64 percent gave him a negative review, according to the Siena poll, and 33 percent gave him a positive grade.
The Spitzer administration has said recent polls showing the governor's decline in popularity among voters is par for the course for someone who is making changes that rattle the status quo.
Greenberg discounted that explanation. "Changing Albany is popular," he said, noting that Spitzer campaigned on that message and won overwhelmingly.