Poll Finds Lukewarm Support for Bloomberg


bloombergDespite generally broad approval for the job Michael R. Bloomberg has done as mayor, a majority of New Yorkers say that he does not deserve another term in office and that they would like to give someone else a chance, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Cornell University and NY1 News. With anxiety rising over a difficult economy, few surveyed have a lot of confidence in Mr. Bloomberg’s ability to lead the city out of the recession, a troubling sign for a mayor who cited his financial acumen as the rationale for his undoing of the term limits law that otherwise would have forced him from office.In addition, some 51 percent say that the city is on the wrong track, while 40 percent say it is going in the right direction.

And though Mr. Bloomberg has sought to elevate his image nationally and internationally as a bold-thinking mayor with a record of innovation and results, New Yorkers in the survey struggle when asked to identify any particular achievement of his tenure. More than a third of those polled could not offer any answer when asked what was the best thing Mr. Bloomberg has done since he became mayor almost eight years ago.

Despite the poll’s findings, Mr. Bloomberg maintains tremendous advantages heading into November’s city election. In addition to the powers of incumbency, the mayor has already poured $20 million into the race and has indicated he could spend as much as $100 million to win another term.

His presumptive Democratic opponent in November, the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., is largely unknown, with almost three-quarters of respondents saying they have not heard enough about Mr. Thompson to form an opinion, even though he has been a citywide official for the same duration as Mr. Bloomberg.

While New Yorkers have concerns about the economy and the state of the city and they would like to see a new mayor, at the same time they think Mr. Bloomberg has been doing a good job. The latest poll shows that 60 percent of residents approve of Mr. Bloomberg’s job performance, while 34 percent disapprove.

The poll of 683 New York City adults was conducted by telephone from May 29 to June 3. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points.

In follow-up interviews with those surveyed, a sense emerged that Mr. Bloomberg has tried his best under difficult circumstances, but that a fresh perspective could be healthy. That is a change from four years ago, when a majority said that Mr. Bloomberg deserved re-election.

“I think the city’s needs change as time goes on,” said Deborah Fantera, an architect who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “And I also think there’s a complacency that happens when someone has been in their position too long.”

Eric Weinstock, an economist and Democrat who lives in Flushing, Queens, said that Mr. Bloomberg had done a poor job of controlling spending and taxes. That opinion mirrored the finding that 58 percent of those surveyed said their city taxes have risen under Mr. Bloomberg.

“Bloomberg was supposed to be not just another politician but a businessman and smarter on the economy than anyone else,” Mr. Weinstock said. “That’s why we elected him, because he was different. But he wasn’t different.”

Mr. Bloomberg is no stranger to wild fluctuations in popularity. In a New York Times poll from June 2003, for example, only 24 percent of those polled approved of his performance, citing job losses, tax increases and service cuts. It was the lowest approval rating for a mayor since The Times began taking polls on mayoral performance in 1978.

But Mr. Bloomberg’s numbers rose later in that term as more New Yorkers credited him for trying to overhaul public education and fight crime, as well as his success in banning smoking from restaurants.

“I approve of what Bloomberg has done for New York City,” said Leo Pachter, a retired businessman in East Elmhurst, Queens, who is a Democrat. “I feel he wants to complete what he’s doing and make more improvements.”

The mayor is also personally popular, with 48 percent expressing a favorable view of him and 26 percent a negative view. Among black residents, the mayor’s favorability is 10 points lower – 38 percent have a positive opinion of him, 33 percent a negative one. Black New Yorkers and Democrats are also more likely to say that it is time for a new person as mayor, the survey finds.

Mr. Bloomberg is also credited with doing a good job handling the city’s latest crisis: the outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed say that the city has provided enough information about the outbreak, and 70 percent say that they are satisfied with the city’s response.

Yet the majority of New Yorkers say important aspects of city life, including affordable housing and crime, have either deteriorated or stayed the same since Mr. Bloomberg took office.

And even though New York City’s public school students showed substantial gains on state math tests this year, particularly in the middle school grades, most people are dissatisfied with the quality of public schools.

The poll shows that the recession is affecting city residents in personal and tangible ways. A third say someone in their household experienced unemployment in the past year, and most say the unemployment had a serious effect on the family’s standard of living.

While almost 60 percent say that the mayor can have a big impact on the economy, only 20 percent have a lot of confidence in Mr. Bloomberg’s ability to bring new jobs to the city.

Mr. Bloomberg has unleashed a flood of television ads in recent months, publicizing his concern for average working New Yorkers and promoting his economic recovery program for the five boroughs. He has been eager at news conferences to move beyond the polarizing battle over his successful push to revise the term limits law last fall, which enabled him and other officials to seek four more years in office.

But the survey finds that residents are unhappy over that change, with 58 percent saying they disapprove of the term limits extension and 37 percent saying they approve.

“Eight years is long enough for a politician to do his service,” said George Chin, a retired financial consultant and political independent who lives on the Lower East Side. “Lengthening terms sets up some sort of crony system where things get stagnant and politicians get too chummy with all the people they work with. I approve of Bloomberg, but I probably would not vote for him because term limits is a significant issue, and it’s time to get someone else in.”

{NY Times/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here