Following Bruising Budget Battle, Pataki Approval Rating Plummets, Poll Shows

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The New York Sun

ALBANY – Governor Pataki has been busy of late shuttling through key presidential primary states, seeking to raise money and his national profile. A new poll suggests that New Yorkers aren’t eager for him to come home.

In the aftermath of a bruising budget battle between Mr. Pataki and the Legislature, most Empire State voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of their governor, according to a poll released yesterday by the Siena Research Institute.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, found that Mr. Pataki has an unfavorable rating of 55%, 15 percentage points higher than two months ago. Just 38% of participants said they had a favorable view of the governor, versus 53% in March. Mr. Pataki’s job approval was highest in the weeks after September 11, 2001.

The striking turnaround was dismissed by the governor’s office as the usual downward tick at this point in the budget cycle, when special interest groups roll out television ads warning of impending doom. Last month, the health care union 1199/SEIU and two hospital associations spent millions of dollars on ads attacking the governor for trimming Medicaid spending. One ad accused the governor of threatening the lives of premature babies.

The governor has also gotten bad publicity in New York City over a lawsuit alleging that the state is shortchanging city schools. Lawmakers have also blamed the governor for relying on legal technicalities to torpedo a program that would have sent checks to homeowners to offset their local property taxes.

Political observers had other theories to explain the drop.

A political scientist at SUNY New Paltz, Gerald Benjamin, said Mr. Pataki’s lame duck status hurts him be cause voters are no longer considering him “against a real-life alternative.” A political science professor at Syracuse University, Jeffrey Stonecash, said voters are skeptical of Mr. Pataki’s newest embrace of fiscal conservatism in view of his past deals with interest groups that inflated spending. “He’s gone back and forth several times. And I think it wears the public out,” Mr. Stonecash said.

A political commentator in Albany, Alan Chartock, said New Yorkers want Mr. Pataki to focus on problems in the state instead of embarking on a longshot bid for the White House.

“They are really angry that he has deserted them in order to go run for president,” Mr. Chartock said. “When he should be home watching the ranch, he’s out gallivanting around.”

After trips to New Hampshire and Delaware, Mr. Pataki was in California yesterday raising money for his 21st Century Freedom PAC and is heading Friday to Kentucky, where he will attend the Kentucky Derby, his aides said.

The New York Sun

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