Bloomberg's Numbers Back Up; Maybe the Questions Help
When New York's long prosperous economy went into free fall, Mayor Bloomberg's normally upbeat approval rating took a hit too. Now both seem to be stabilizing slightly -- not that either has recovered its former glory. While Bloomberg has enjoyed approval ratings of around 70 percent throughout his tenure, in February his approval rating dropped to an all time "low" of 52 percent. That's not bad: even at his lowest moment, more than half the New York electorate still was happy with the way he did his job.
When asked if the mayor is working hard, if he understands the problems facing the city, and if he is a good leader, voters continue to give the mayor high marks (81 percent for the first question, and 73 percent for the latter two). If fact, the only issue in which a substantial part of the electorate seems a little lukewarm is Bloomberg's image as a sensitive, caring guy. Around 44 percent of New Yorkers with household incomes below $50,000 don't think he cares about people like them -- but 48 percent of them do. (It's too bad the poll doesn't have a category for people with disabilities.)
Teflon Mayor seems like an apt moniker. Despite the Sean Bell case and the rising number of stop-and-frisks in the black and Latino community, 80 perent of African American voters approve of the way the mayor handles crime. That number has been going up since the mayor came into office. Then again, the pollsters didn't ask New Yorkers specifically how the mayor handled Sean Bell, stop-and-frisks, or overturned arrests like those of the Bushwick 32.
Same with the housing crisis. The pollsters didn't ask New Yorkers whether Bloomberg is helping to preserve affordable housing. Depending on how they asked, they might have gotten very different responses. For example, if you ask New Yorkers whether Bloomberg has created affordable housing, the statistically correct answer is yes: Bloomberg has, in fact, built more affordable housing units than any other administration prior. But if you ask a New Yorker whether tens of thousands of people have been have been displaced from their homes as rents have skyrocketed over the past eight years -- and whether Bloomberg has created a public policy to stop that -- the answer's not such a sure one.
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