WASHINGTON — New York's senior U.S. senator reached new heights in the Senate hierarchy last year, but doing so led him to new lows in two new polls in his home state.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat who has long enjoyed widespread popularity across the state, fell in the esteem of voters who participated in polls conducted by both Quinnipiac University and Siena College and released last week.
In the Quinnipiac poll, 53 percent of New York voters surveyed said they approved of the job Schumer was doing, while 35 percent disapproved. That's the lowest approval rating Schumer has received in a Quinnipiac poll since April 15, 1999, three months after he took office, when 51 percent said they approved of his work.
Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said the poll is "proof perhaps that even one the most popular of senators can get muddied up in today's Washington swamp."
The Siena poll showed similar findings. Some 52 percent of respondents rated Schumer favorably, while 39 percent rated him unfavorably. That's Schumer's lowest-ever favorability rating in a Siena poll, dating to 2005, and it's down 4 points from the college's previous poll in January.
“As one of the main faces of the opposition in Washington, Schumer is now viewed unfavorably by three-quarters of Republicans," noted Siena pollster Steve Greenberg. "Just 14 months ago he had an overall 67-23 percent favorability rating, including 55-37 percent with Republicans.”
Schumer's recent drop in popularity among Republicans is key to his overall decline, and both could be tied to last month's government shutdown, said Jacob Neiheisel, an assistant professor of political science at the University at Buffalo.
Republicans dubbed it "the Schumer shutdown" because Senate Democrats refused to pass a spending bill without protections for the young undocumented immigrants called the "Dreamers."
"Calling it 'the Schumer shutdown' allows Republicans to take note," Neiheisel said.
Party leaders in the Senate often see their popularity fall, Neiheisel said, just because they become more associated with national political controversies rather than the good they do back home.
Schumer was elected to a fourth six-year term in 2016 and became the Senate's top Democrat in January 2017.
Despite his increased responsibilities in Washington, Schumer still travels across the state frequently. He traveled to all 62 counties in the state last year, as always, and he is scheduled to visit Buffalo next week after several visits last year.
Schumer spokesman Jason Kaplan seemed nonplussed by the polls.
“As always, Senator Schumer is focused on working hard for Western New Yorkers and delivering results, like saving thousands of jobs in Buffalo when KeyBank acquired First Niagara, and in working across the aisle to pass a bipartisan budget that helps the middle class by delivering key support to fight the opioid crisis, care for our vets and strengthen education," Kaplan said.
The polls also featured a series of other key findings:
- The Siena poll showed Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who is up for re-election this year, with a 48 percent favorability rating, down from 51 percent in January. In addition, the Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of those surveyed, including 47 percent of Democrats, don't want Gillibrand to run for president.
- In the Quinnipiac poll, 47 percent of voters approved of the job Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is doing, while 37 percent disapproved, which is little changed from a similar poll last July. Upstate, though, only 40 percent of voters approved of Cuomo. And in the Quinnipiac poll, 63 percent of voters, including 49 percent of Democrats, said they did not want to see Cuomo run for president. Cuomo is also up for re-election this year.
- All three big-name Democrats can take heart in the fact that they remain far more popular in the state than another New Yorker: President Trump. The Siena poll showed Trump, a Republican, to be the least popular living president in the state, with a 33 percent approval rating. Barack Obama proved to be the most popular past president, with an approval rating more than twice that of Trump's.