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Siena poll: Bail reform in New York State is unpopular

Siena poll: Bail reform in New York State is unpopular

All demographic groups see bail reform more negatively than they did last April
Siena poll: Bail reform in New York State is unpopular
Photographer: Shutterstock

LOUDONVILLE -- Public attitudes toward the criminal justice reforms that included elimination of most cash bail have flipped to the negative since the law took effect on Jan. 1, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll.

A statewide poll released Tuesday found that registered voters now feel the new law is more bad than good, by a 49 percent to 37 percent margin. That's a reversal from last April, when most New Yorkers thought the law was good, 55 percent to 38 percent.

The law, adopted as part of the 2019-2020 state budget process, eliminated cash bail for misdemeanors, many non-violent felonies and some violent crimes, resulting in a number of instances in which people accused of crimes as serious as bank robbery and manslaughter have been released without bail pending further court proceedings.

The law has drawn withering criticism from Republicans in the state Legislature, law enforcement leaders and from many prosecutors in both parties, who says it fails to recognize the need for judges to have discretion to set bail depending on the case circumstances. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state Senate leaders have indicated some willingness to adjust the law, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has not.

The poll found that while all demographic groups are more negative about the law than they were in April, the biggest shifts have been among independent, suburban and older voters.

"In April, at least 60 percent of Democrats and independents thought the new bail law would be good for New York, while 55 percent of Republicans thought it would be bad," Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. "Today, independents have flipped from a 22-point margin thinking 'good,' to a 27-point margin thinking 'bad.'"

Currently, 56 percent of independents think the law is bad, to 29 percent who think it's good. Among Democrats, 53 percent think it's good, but that's down from 64 percent in April. Support for the law among Latinos and blacks has dropped from about two-thirds to about half of all respondents, Greenberg said.

"Certainly, all the attention this new law has gotten across the state has had an impact with voters and it is clear that a sizable number of New Yorkers, who were optimistic that the new bail law would be good for the state, now believe the law is bad for New York," Greenberg said.

The poll also found that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's favorability rating has improved since his State of the State address on Jan. 8, with 49 percent of voters seeing him favorably, and 45 percent negatively. In the last poll in November, Cuomo was seen negatively, by a 49 percent to 45 percent margin.

"Right now, a plurality of voters say they view Cuomo favorably, including more than two-thirds of Democrats," Greenberg said. "However, it's viewed unfavorably by 51 percent of independents and 80 percent of Republicans."

The poll found public support for Cuomo's State of the State agenda, including proposals to reduce the corporate tax on small business, ban single-use Styrofoam packaging, and ask voters to approve a $3 billion "Restore Mother Nature" bond act. The narrowest margin, with 58 percent supporting and 38 percent opposed, was for Cuomo's proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

The poll was conducted Jan. 11-16, surveying 814 registered voters. The margin of error is plus-minus 4.1 percent.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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