Bloomberg approval rating lowest since 2005

February 20, 2009 3:50:18 PM PST
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's popularity fell to a four-year low in a new poll Friday with more New Yorkers disapproving of the billionaire businessman's handling of the city's economic crisis, the signature issue that propelled him to seek a third term this year. The number of New Yorkers who think the city is moving in the right direction also dropped precipitously in the Marist College poll, with more people believing New York is heading in the wrong direction than the right one.

Bloomberg's 52 percent approval rating was a 16 percent fall since October 2008, analysts attributed the decline to the mayor's budget-tightening and the failing economy.

But the mayor still held commanding leads over potential challengers in the 2009 race, beating his closest competitor in the poll, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, by 16 percentage points.

"The mayor would like better numbers. He's got a bad majority, but he's got a majority," said Doug Muzzio, a public affairs professor at Baruch College. "But at the same time, how does he lose? You can't beat somebody with nobody."

Bloomberg, a former CEO and one of the richest Americans, staked his bid to change the term limits law last fall on his financial expertise, saying he should be allowed a third term because he was uniquely qualified to shepherd the city through the global economic meltdown.

He has presented grim budget addresses since, proposing raising taxes, slashing expenses and threatening thousands of layoffs to cope with one of the worst economic downturns in recent history.

"Clearly the economy's on people's minds," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist poll. "That does often get laid at the doorstep of the chief executive."

But the mayor may have gone too far with the public with emphasis on his economic skills, Muzzio said.

"The fact is that he sold himself as the man who knew the buck and knew how to produce jobs and he's not doing it," Muzzio said. "It's both reacting to events and the expectation of further bad events."

Bloomberg campaign adviser Howard Wolfson responded Friday: "The reason the mayor enjoys an expanding double digit lead over two of his opponents is because under his leadership crime has gone down, school test scores have gone up and he has made the tough choices to balance the budget while preserving services for the middle class."

The mayor's lead increased slightly over Weiner, city comptroller William Thompson and City Councilman Tony Avella since the last Marist poll in November.

Weiner spokesman John Collins said Friday the congressman was more focused on the economy than polls.

"He will keep focused on his work in Washington fighting for help in New York's recovery, and now is not the time for politics," Collins said.

The Marist poll interviewed 827 registered voters by telephone on Monday and Tuesday. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The approval rating fell to its lowest level in the poll since June 2005.

The mayor's approval rating fell from a 59 percent rating in November. Thirty-seven percent of the voters thought the city was headed in the right direction, down 8 points since November.

On the Net: