NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — New York voters are split if Governor Cuomo meant his apology about his alleged unwanted sexual advances, but a majority believe he harassed his former staffers, according to the latest survey from NewsNation and Emerson College.
New Yorkers were split 41% to 41% if Cuomo actually meant his Wednesday remarks, with 18% saying they didn’t hear the governor’s apology.
The Democrat, speaking Wednesday in his first public appearance since three women accused him of inappropriate touching and offensive remarks, apologized and said that he “learned an important lesson” about his behavior around women.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.”
Among those polled, New York voters are now also more confident in the allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed his former staffers. 54% now think he did while prior to his apology, only 38% thought he did it before the press conference.
The number of those who do not believe he made unwanted advances did not change significantly though, only moving from 18% to 19%
Cuomo acknowledged in the press conference “sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed” and that what he considers his “customary greeting” — an old-world approach that often involves kisses and hugs — is not acceptable.
Two of the women accusing Cuomo worked in his administration. The other was a guest at a wedding that he officiated.
Former aide Lindsey Boylan accuses Cuomo of having harassed her throughout her employment and said he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo once asked her if she ever had sex with older men.
Both women rejected Cuomo’s latest apology, doubling down on their disgust after he issued a statement Sunday attempting to excuse his behavior as his way of being “playful.”
More New Yorkers also believe Cuomo should resign with 43% agreeing compared to 37% in the last survey. The number who think he should stay in office did not change.
Asked about calls for him to step aside, the third-term governor said: “I wasn’t elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I’m not going to resign.”
Wednesday’s press conference increased awareness of sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo with 61% saying they’ve heard a great deal about the issue, compared to 50% earlier this week.
Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson College Polling, suggests that “Cuomo’s apology did not
go far enough, as voters were less satisfied with Governor Cuomo’s response after the press
conference than before: 49% reported being disappointed with his response on the issue
currently, which is up from 42% earlier in the week.”
When pollsters broke down which issue should Cuomo resign over, if he were to resign, more said the nursing home crisis compared to sexual harassment claims. Forty-five percent said they believed he should resign over the nursing home scandal. Forty-three percent said he should over sexual harassment allegations.
Voters also are more increasingly concerned that the issues of sexual harassment and mishandling of the nursing home data will impact Cuomo’s ability to govern. Forty-six percent now believe it will, while only 39% did earlier this week.
Cuomo said he will “fully cooperate” with an investigation into the allegations overseen by the state’s independently elected attorney general. Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, is selecting an outside law firm to conduct the probe and document its findings in a public report.
Cuomo addressed the allegations during a news conference that otherwise focused on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the kind of briefings that made him a daily fixture on TV and a national star among Democrats. Before that, Cuomo last spoke to reporters during a conference call on Feb. 22. His last briefing on camera was Feb. 19.
The governor’s job approval numbers post-news conference have stayed consistent with 38% approving, 49% disapproving, and 13% unsure.
Asked what he was saying to New Yorkers, Cuomo said: “I’m embarrassed by what happened… I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I’m embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way.”
The governor, who has touted a law requiring all workers in New York to receive sexual harassment training, said he felt at the time that his behavior was innocuous but now acknowledges that sexual harassment centers on how the victim is impacted — not the offender’s intent.
“If a person feels uncomfortable, if a person feels pain, if a person is offended, I feel very badly about that and I apologize for it. There’s no but — it’s, ‘I’m sorry,’” Cuomo said.
One bit of good news for Cuomo is that 50% of voters still consider him as ethical as most politicians. Four percent more also think he is more ethical than others after his apology this week, with 15% before the press conference and 19% saying yes after.
The New York Emerson College/WPIX-TV/NewsNation poll was conducted March 1-2, 2021. The sample consisted of New York registered voters, n=700, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.6 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, race, party affiliation and region. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, SMS-to-web, and an online panel provided by Prime Panels