Siena poll: After nursing-home scandal, Cuomo's approval barely budges

For now, anyway. Politico reports on the latest Siena poll of New York voters, which finds that Andrew Cuomo appears largely untouched by the rapidly expanding nursing home scandal. That comes with a very large caveat, however:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s popularity wasn’t damaged by the release of a report by the state’s attorney general that found Cuomo had undercounted the number of Covid-19 deaths among nursing home residents, a poll released Tuesday by the Siena College Research Institute found.

The poll was conducted Feb. 7-11, after the Jan. 28 release of Attorney General Tish James’ report but before a New York Post story detailing Cuomo’s refusal to release the nursing home death numbers. The poll found 56 percent of respondents said they view Cuomo favorably, compared to 39 percent who view him unfavorably. That’s basically the same as the 57-39 he received in January and 56-39 he received in November.

Only 39 percent said that he has done an “excellent” or “good” job at “making public all data about Coivd-related deaths of nursing home patients.” But that was “the issue on which voters most harshly grade Cuomo,” Siena spokesperson Steve Greenberg noted. On the broader question of how he’s handling the pandemic, the governor won the approval of 61 percent of respondents and disapproval of 34 percent. That compares to 63-32 in January and 63-30 in November. The extent of any damage from the Post report will have to wait until the next poll.

That seems like a very large Sword of Damocles, but maybe it isn’t. Cuomo’s numbers have remained strong in the state despite his self-promoting antics and the obvious collapse of his “I beat COVID” claims in the late fall. That spin and outright lying took place over months, and so far New Yorkers don’t seem inclined to punish the Love Gov for it, not even after James’ report vindicated Janice Dean and other critics of Cuomo’s administration.

Guy Benson is mystified over Cuomo’s “gaslighting” strategy, but it seems to be working:

Scandal-plagued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference yesterday afternoon in which he addressed the controversies engulfing his administration. It’s difficult to know how or where to even begin the process of fact-checking his astoundingly dishonest performance. As it unfolded, conservative writer Seth Mandel asked, “has Cuomo said anything in this presser so far that isn’t an outright lie? Not yet, far as I can tell.” Upon its conclusion, Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean — who lost both of her in-laws in New York nursing homes, and who has been sneered at by Cuomo’s boorish Praetorian guard — tweeted incredulously, “after that complete BS of a press conference, I’m at a loss for words.” Indeed. Consider the following arguments and assertions. After complaining that this scandal has arisen from a “toxic political environment,” Cuomo set out to deny that anything we know about the situation isn’t real. Hardcore, textbook gaslighting.

At least until now, it’s also hardcore effective. Cuomo seems convinced that he can gaslight his constituents, and his constituents seem heavily invested in proving him correct.

Will this change after Melissa DeRosa’s admission? It might. National and state media have provided Cuomo with tons of cover for this gaslighting, but that was mainly to provide a narrative alternative to Donald Trump’s performance on COVID-19 issues. The media had to distort both men’s records to make that work, but Trump’s no longer in office, so the media can use Joe Biden now for that purpose. DeRosa’s admission of a cover-up makes it even more difficult to pretent Cuomo is both honest and competent — so much so that even his fellow Democrats in the legislature want an investigation and to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers.

That could make a very big difference, if one looks at the crosstabs of this poll. Cuomo’s approval rating is primarily a function of lock-step support from Democrats (78/18). Republicans predictably have almost the exact reverse assessment (21/77), but Cuomo’s slightly underwater among indies (44/48). If Democrats start reassessing Cuomo and indies bleed away, Cuomo will be in real trouble.

By the way, Cuomo’s re-elect numbers already look significantly worse in this poll. He only gets a 46/45 virtual deadlock against a generic challenger, and only 65/28 among Democrats. Among independents, Cuomo only scores 34/52. One has to wonder whether that gaslighting has been as effective as it seems based on that number, and what both the approval and re-elect numbers will show in the next Siena poll as DeRosa’s comments play out.