ALBANY, New York — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is maintaining a strong lead over potential challengers despite a sharp drop in his job approval rating among voters feeling tough economic times, according to a new poll released Thursday.
The NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll has Cuomo leading just-announced Republican candidate and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino by 40 percentage points — 65 versus 25 percent — and similar margins over other potential contenders, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino and Donald Trump.
Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said the one major change since November's poll is the 10 point drop in the percentage of voters who believe Cuomo is doing a good or excellent job. The number fell from 52 percent to 42 percent, driven by substantial declines among African-American, Latino and upstate voters.
"That's the one piece of the puzzle that doesn't fit the pattern of him being strong across the board," Miringoff said, noting that the approval numbers, the lowest since Cuomo took office, aren't hurting him among voters. The poll shows his favorability rating among voters remains near steady at 63 percent, while 33 percent view him negatively.
"All these polls, the adage is they go up and they go down," Cuomo said public radio's "Capitol Pressroom" Thursday. "What has happened since November, I have no idea that could suggest anything. Every other poll says everything we put in the State of the State and the budget — which is the only thing that happened — these provisions are all overwhelmingly supported."
Miringoff links the results to an uptick in the number of New Yorkers who believe the state is still in recession, results that showed a divide between upstate and down and a stronger sense among minorities that times are hard.
Last April, 58 percent of those polled thought the state was in recession compared to 65 percent now, according to the poll.
Among upstate voters, Cuomo's approval rating dropped from 47 to 35 percent, while the percentages of voters who feel he's doing a good or excellent job dropped from 62 to 41 percent among Latinos and 57 to 42 percent among African-Americans, the poll showed. In New York City, 50 percent of voters approve of Cuomo's performance, down from 56 percent.
"Facts matter at the end of the day. And when it comes to jobs, for example, is the economy great? No. But is the state doing better? Yes," Cuomo said, pointing to the announcement Thursday that the state's jobless rate dropped to 6.8 percent in January, the lowest level since 2008.
The poll surveyed 658 registered voters from last Friday through Monday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.