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Despite concerns about corruption, voters still give big edge to Cuomo

Public opinion of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has barely budged in the wake of intensive media coverage over the past three weeks critical of his Moreland Commission, along with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation into it, according to the results of a Siena College poll released this morning.

New Yorkers who were polled overwhelmingly said corruption in state government is serious, with 86 percent saying it is “very serious” or “somewhat serious.” Yet two-thirds of them said they are not familiar with the Moreland Commission or its work investigating corruption in state government.

The New York Times reported three weeks ago that Cuomo’s administration repeatedly interfered with the work of the commission that he appointed. The paper cited one example in which the commission withdrew a subpoena it had issued to a firm that had done work for the governor’s campaign after a top Cuomo aide called a commission co-chair and told him to “pull it back.”

Since the Times published that report, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has amplified his interest in investigating the commission.

“‘We think corruption is a major problem,’ voters say. But how much attention are you paying to it? Not very much,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. “Most voters are concerned about their everyday lives. And they’re not spending a lot of time paying attention to what’s going on in Albany.”

The usual suspects top the list of issues most important to voters in the Siena College poll. The issue identified as being the most important one that will determine who New Yorkers will vote for: jobs – followed by taxes and education. Coming in fourth: government corruption.

More than two-thirds of the voters polled said they did not know enough about the Moreland Commission to say whether they thought it was a success.

Pollsters provided them with a two sentence summary, saying: “A recent newspaper report concluded that the governor’s office interfered with the Moreland Commission’s work by repeatedly pressuring it. The governor says the commission was independent and any conversations between his office and the commission were simply to provide information, and they were appropriate.”

After hearing that summary, likely voters were asked who they believed more; 49 percent said they believed the newspaper report, while 25 percent said they believed the governor’s explanation.

Thirteen percent of poll respondents said they think the actions of the governor and his office relative to the Moreland Commission were potentially criminal in nature. Sixteen percent said they think Cuomo and his administration’s actions were inappropriate, but not a crime.

A majority of those polled – 52 percent – said they thought “the governor makes decisions based on what he thinks is best for his political future.” Forty-one percent said they think “the governor makes decisions based on what he thinks is best for New Yorkers.”

Reports about the Moreland Commission have barely swayed likely voters’ opinion of Cuomo, the poll showed.

Cuomo now leads Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino by a 32 percentage points, down from 37 points three weeks ago.

Likewise, the governor’s favorability rating is down, but only a few points.

Cuomo’s favorability rating stands at 57 percent, down from 61 percent in July.

A majority of voters – 51 percent – said they would re-elect Cuomo rather than vote for “someone else.”

“Cuomo continues to be liked by voters and a majority are still inclined to want to re-elect him,” Greenberg said. “Astorino remains unknown to more than half of voters, with only a slightly net positive favorability rating.”

Twenty-nine percent said they would trust Cuomo to “do a better job cleaning up corruption in Albany,” compared to 14 percent who said they trusted Astorino to do so. Nearly half of those polled, though, said they don’t trust either candidate to clean up corruption.

The Siena College Poll last week surveyed by telephone 863 New York state registered voters considered likely to vote in the gubernatorial election this fall. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.