New York voters give Gov. Kathy Hochul high marks when it comes to her taking a more collaborative approach to governing than her predecessor. A majority of voters are energized by having a woman serve as governor for the first time in the state's history.
There's just one problem for her: She remains largely unknown to many voters in New York.
A Siena College poll released Tuesday morning found 41% of voters either have no opinion of her or don't know enough about the new governor to form an opinion yet. Hochul's favorable rating is nearly identical at 42%, and well within the poll's 4.2% margin of error. The poll found 17% of voters in New York view her unfavorably.
Since taking office Aug. 24 and replacing the scandal-scarred Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hochul has put in place universal masking requirements for schools as they reopen, secured an extension of an eviction moratorium from state lawmakers in an extraordinary session, and pledged to ensure money to those struggling during the pandemic will move more quickly out the door.
In between, Hochul has had to respond to a natural disaster, with the flooding from the remnants of a hurricane leading to dozens of deaths in the New York City area and millions of dollars in damage.
Hochul is the first governor from Buffalo in more than a century, and has indicated plans to run for a full term next year. She will almost certainly face Democratic challengers in a June primary.
Despite many New Yorkers reserving judgment or not knowing enough about her, Hochul has some wind at her back with support from voters in the state as they back her on the key issues she has highlighted over the last several weeks.
A majority of voters think Hochul will successfully ensuring in-classroom instruction for students, 69% to 16%. New York voters by a margin of 74% to 16% say it's exciting to have a history-making governor. And a majority of voters, 52%, back Hochul's efforts to take a more collaborative governing strategy with lawmakers and local governments.
Voters also believe Hochul can lead the state through natural disasters, 65% to 16%, as well as control the spread of COVID-19, 61% to 24%.
And voters backed the decision by Cuomo to resign last month amid a looming impeachment battle in the state Legislature, 67% to 26%. Cuomo's resignation also draws the support of a majority of Democratic voters polled, 55% to 35%.
Cuomo has his worst-ever favorability rating with the Siena poll, 34% to 55%, a drop from a 45% to 47% split in June.
“While still largely unknown to a wide swath of New Yorkers, Governor Hochul begins her tenure with a lot of good will from voters," said Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg. "Among those with an opinion about her, she is viewed strongly favorably, although two in five New Yorkers don’t yet have an opinion, despite Hochul having been lieutenant governor for six years and elected statewide twice."
Cuomo departed from office as the state was at something of a crossroads for the pandemic, a public health crisis that had initially vaulted the three-term governor into new heights of popularity and national acclaim, only to fall well back down to earth amid myriad controversies.
Hochul in the last several weeks has sought her own approach on the pandemic, but has met some resistance.
Nevertheless, voters are supportive of having public school teachers and staff be required to be vaccinated, 69% to 26%. A majority of voters in New York, 66% to 32%, support having businesses like gyms and restaurants require customers to show proof of vaccination. Mask requirements in schools for staff, teachers and students is backed 78% to 18%, the poll found.
The poll of 700 New York state registered voters was conducted from Sept. 7-12. The poll's crosstabs can be found here.