New York Government Is Dysfunctional, 83% Tell Poll

New York’s government is dysfunctional in the view of four out of five state voters, a Quinnipiac University poll shows, the highest measure of public dissatisfaction in the survey’s 20-year history.

The poll, conducted as the state closes in on three months without a budget, found that 76 percent of voters disapprove of the Legislature, the highest level ever recorded. Governor David Paterson and the lawmakers haven’t agreed on how to close a $9.2 billion deficit for the fiscal year that began April 1, requiring a succession of emergency bills to prevent a shutdown.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said their state senator should be voted out of office in November, while 36 percent said their senator deserves re-election. The poll said half of respondents also want to oust their Assembly member, compared with 34 percent who favor re-election. Ninety-five percent said the late budget is a very or somewhat serious problem.

“The resentment is bigger than we’ve ever measured,” said Maurice Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. “By now, the adjective ‘dysfunctional’ seems to apply automatically to the Legislature,” he said in a statement.

Eighty-three percent said they agreed with the description of the state government as “dysfunctional,” up from 76 percent in December and 71 percent in April 2009, the poll said.

‘Glaring’ Problem

Asked if they were satisfied with the state’s direction, 47 percent said they were “very dissatisfied” and 33 percent were “somewhat dissatisfied,” compared with 1 percent who said they were “very satisfied,” and 18 percent who described themselves as “somewhat satisfied.”

“The problem is so glaring, I wonder what the 17 percent who said state government isn’t dysfunctional were thinking?” said Douglas Muzzio, a professor of urban politics at Baruch College, a division of City University of New York. “Incumbents should be worried, but you can’t beat somebody with nobody and if challengers don’t have enough resources things won’t change.”

Mark Hansen, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos, blamed the Democrats, who hold a 32-30 majority in the chamber.

“Voters have become more and more angry with them for higher taxes, more spending, late budgets and more dysfunction,” he said in an e-mail.


Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said the voters were “right to be frustrated by pass-the-buck politicians who failed them for far too long.” The Democrats have made “smart cuts and tough choices to give New York a budget it can afford and a government as good as its people,” he said in a statement.

The governor’s office declined to comment. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s spokesman didn’t return a telephone call or e-mail.

The poll’s highest measure of satisfaction, 73 percent either very or somewhat satisfied, came in February 1998. Today’s poll reported the lowest level of public approval in the institute’s 22-year history, Carroll said.

Twenty-seven percent put most of the blame on Democratic lawmakers. About 24 percent held Paterson, a Democrat, responsible and 19 percent most faulted the Republicans. Among independent voters, 27 percent blamed the Democrats, 20 percent Paterson and 17 percent the Republicans, the poll said.

When asked if all candidates should sign a pledge to create an independent non-partisan group to redraw legislative district boundaries, 59 percent agreed while 21 percent disagreed, with no significant difference of opinion among Democrats, Republicans or independents. Current district lines were drawn by the Legislature.

Pollsters interviewed 1,592 registered voters by telephone from June 15 to 20, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, the institute said.

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