New York turning purple?

There are some things that we all just know without having to ask anyone or turn to The Google. The sun rises in the east, tofu is not actually food, and if you hang around Joe Biden long enough he’ll say something asinine. And for quite a while we’ve all known that New York is one of the most liberal states in the nation. Or is it?

Were you to search for any evidence to the contrary, probably the last place you would look would be an article titled, NY Same-sex Marriage Support at New High.

Support for marriage equality/same-sex marriage/gay marriage is at a new high in New York, according to today’s new Quinnipiac Poll

Voters in the survey backed legalizing marriage between same-sex couples 58-36%, “higher than ever while statistically unchanged from 56-38% April 14.” Once again, we see a split along party lines: Democrats support legalization 72-23%, independents back it 58-34% and GOP voters are opposed, 64-34%.

I’m not knocking the Daily News here. The headline is accurate. The Empire State is in the midst of considering same-sex marriage, and voter support for it has been trending upward for a while now. But this wasn’t the only subject covered in the Q poll, and when you dig into the rest of the questions well below the lede, the plot thickens. New York elected another Democratic governor last year in the person of Andrew Cuomo, but he’s been leaning hard in the direction of Chris Christie since then, taking his message to the people with non-traditional subjects, and it seems to be sinking in.

The first area of interest relates to taxes. The voters are tired of competing with Massachusetts for the title of worst taxed state and are letting their legislators know about it.

Voters support 60-30% a cap on property taxes proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

But that’s only the beginning. NY has long been one of the most steadfast strongholds of union power over the government, in particular the teachers unions. (Remember, we were the home of the infamous “rubber rooms” and bad teachers are nearly impossible to remove under the “last hired first fired” iron-clad rules.) The unions have held on with a death grip to rejecting any form of performance based evaluations. How do the voters feel about that now?

Given an either-or choice, voters say 82-13% that teacher layoffs should be based on performance rather than seniority. Offered a second option, half say layoffs should be based on a combination of both

And while the voters still maintain an overall favorable impression of the teachers themselves, their opinion about the unions has cratered. They were asked the question, “Do you believe the teachers’ unions are playing a positive or a negative role in improving New York State’s educational system?” The unions were underwater, with 48% saying “negative” to 43% in the positive category. Not a huge gap, but when you consider that the same question posed in 2004 gave the unions a 48-35 thumbs up, it’s a remarkable shift.

The next question was even more telling:

Some people have suggested that firing public school teachers should be made easier. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?

Good idea: 63%
Bad idea: 31%
DK/NA: 6%

Several of the items covered in this poll are ideas which one would generally expect to find in a much redder state, and previously demonstrated very little traction in New York. Cuomo has been pounding the pavement with some of these reform proposals, and for the first time in decades he seems to be gaining some ground with voters who are clearly fed up with high taxes, scandals and union control of Albany.

It’s too soon to say that there is a tidal shift underway, but voters are beginning to pay attention. We haven’t elected a Republican senator here since Al D’Amato retired in the late 90’s, but Kirsten Gillibrand is up again next year to vie for her first full term. Democrats should be looking at the numbers from this poll and feeling a wee bit less comfortable than normal.