Following new accusations of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew Cuomo — while he remains embroiled in scandals over nursing home residents during the pandemic — the governor’s apology Wednesday didn’t appear to do him many favors, according to results of an Emerson College/ PIX11/NewsNation poll.
New Yorkers were evenly split on how they felt about the governor’s apology, according to the poll, conducted on March 3 and 4. During the governor’s first live, in-person public statement, he apologized for making anyone uncomfortable and championed a woman’s right to come forward while simultaneously denying claims of inappropriate touching.
Of the 800 New Yorkers surveyed, 41% believed he meant his apology, and 41% believed he didn’t. (Meanwhile, 18% of respondents were not aware of the apology.)
When it comes to the governor’s handling of the accusations as a whole, the court of public opinion may be shifting in the wrong direction for him since the last poll conducted by Emerson, PIX11 and NewsNation earlier this week.
Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson College Polling, explained the results and suggested the governor missed an opportunity.
“Cuomo’s apology did not go far enough, as voters were less satisfied with Gov. Cuomo’s response after the press conference than before: 49% reported being disappointed with his response on the issue currently, which is up from 42% earlier in the week,” Kimball said.
Cuomo’s pandemic reputation has been severely tarnished in recent weeks, with multiple women accusing the governor of sexual harassment. The claims surfaced as the Cuomo administration was simultaneously battling accusations of bullying and abuse, particularly toward political peers.
On Feb. 24, Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide now running for Manhattan borough president, published additional details regarding alleged sexual harassment by Cuomo, including a forced kiss. The governor, as he did in December when her allegations first surfaced, said he respects the rights of women to come forward, but flatly denied Boylan’s allegations.
Days later, a second former staffer, Charlotte Bennett, came forward and accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bennett said the governor asked her invasive questions about her personal and sexual life.
On Sunday, Cuomo issued a flurry of statements, at first attempting to select an attorney to conduct a review of his actions, as well sharing an apology that was widely criticized. The governor then agreed to allow the state attorney general to hire an independent law firm to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
The following day, a third accuser came forward to the New York Times. Anna Ruch accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior at a wedding. Unlike Boylan and Bennet, Ruch was not an employee of Cuomo’s at the time the alleged harassment occurred. Her account of aggressive behavior was supported by witnesses, contemporaneous text messages and a picture.
Thursday’s poll is the first conducted since Ruch went public with her account.
Over the past two days, 95% of New Yorkers polled said they’d heard about the accusations levied against Cuomo by former staffers and a guest he’d met at a wedding; that’s up from about 89% in a previous survey conducted earlier in the week.
The increase in awareness is seemingly also reflected in the number of people who think the governor is guilty of the allegations levied against him.
Of those polled, 54% of New Yorkers now say yes, Cuomo is guilty. Two days ago, polling from Emerson, PIX11 and NewsNation showed only 38% of News Yorkers felt this way. (In the time between the two surveys, the governor addressed the accusations publicly, and a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.)
But should the governor exit the office? Those views generally remained stagnant.
Thursday’s results show 43% of New Yorkers surveyed think he should resign over sexual harassment claims; earlier in the week, that number was 37%.
The sexual harassment and bullying allegations come at the same time as the governor’s office is under investigation related to COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents over the course of the pandemic.
In late January, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report on nursing home deaths and policies related to the coronavirus pandemic. James found the Cuomo administration vastly underreported nursing home deaths, according to the report. Her office also made a number of other conclusions about questionable policy, including a legal immunity provision put into the 2020-21 state budget for nursing home and hospital executives.
Days later, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, who became a powerful figure in the administration during the pandemic, held a controversial phone call with Democratic state lawmakers.
She allegedly told lawmakers that the governor’s office “froze” when it received legislative requests about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes for fear the data would be used as a political weapon.
In the days that followed, DeRosa and Cuomo clarified they meant that requests from the state Legislature were frozen so that requests from the Department of Justice could be fulfilled. Cuomo insisted lawmakers were told this was happening, which many denied. He also began to assert his only mistake on nursing homes was not correcting misinformation, which left a “void” political opponents filled with false conspiracies.
Cuomo has seen his job performance numbers stay consistently underwater this week amid the scandals. When asked if they approve or disapprove of Cuomo’s job performance, 49% of respondents said they disapprove of Cuomo’s job as governor, 38% approve, and 13% reported feeling unsure or having no opinion.
But will these current controversies matter when it comes to the wellbeing of state government? The poll showed 46% of New Yorkers believe the harassment and nursing home scandals will affect the governor’s ability to lead. Two days ago, that number was 39%.
The New York Emerson College/PIX11/NewsNation poll was conducted March 3-4, 2021. The sample consisted of New York registered voters, n=800, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, race, party affiliation, and region. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, SMS-to-web, and an online panel provided by Cloud Research.