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State voters more interested in on-time budget than ethics reform, poll shows

More voters think an on-time state budget is more important than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed ethics reform package, according to a poll released Tuesday by Siena Research Institute.

The poll of 810 English-speaking registered voters in the state was conducted by telephone Feb. 15-18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

State government corruption is a serious problem, 92 percent of those polled agreed. But there was a larger majority of voters, 53 to 37 percent, who said passing an on-time state budget is more important than the governor’s ethics reform package; those results were 51 to 44 percent.

And the results were 50 to 42 percent for voters who said Cuomo’s threat to hold up the budget over ethics reform is designed to make him look good, rather than a serious effort to reduce corruption.

Fifty-nine percent of poll participants said they would prefer full-time state legislators with a ban on outside employment, compared with the current system of part-time legislators. Similarly, however, 58 percent of those polled want a part-time Legislature with full disclosure of outside income, rather than a full-time Legislature that bans outside employment.

Approximately one-third of voters prefer the status quo: the current system of part-time legislators and existing income disclosure requirements.

The poll also touched on the issue of education, with 37 percent of voters blaming insufficient parental involvement as the single biggest reason that not enough high school graduates are college- or career-ready.

Eighteen percent blamed insufficient education funding; 17 percent pointed to the effects of poverty; and 12 percent said there’s ineffective state education oversight.

Just 10 percent blamed the quality of the state’s teachers.

By an overwhelming majority of 62 to 29 percent, voters said teachers should be eligible for tenure after five years – as proposed by the governor, rather than the current three years.

Seventy-three percent of voters polled said they didn’t know enough about new Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, to have an opinion about his election; results were 44 to 26 percent in favor of it.

Former Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has been indicted on federal corruption charges, now is viewed unfavorably by 58 percent of voters, up from 37 percent last month. Only 16 percent view him favorably.

Despite the recent controversies in Albany, there’s a negligible change in how voters view the Legislature. The favorability rating for the Assembly is 43 to 45 percent, down slightly from 42 to 41 percent last month, and the Senate’s remains at 45 to 44 percent.

The governor’s favorability rating has slipped slightly. It’s 59 to 37 percent, compared with 60 to 35 percent last month.

Voters are a little more optimistic on the direction of New York State, but a majority of them still think the country is headed in the wrong direction.