David Yates Apr. 22, 2014, 3:27pm

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - A Siena Research Institute poll released Tuesday shows New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is still an unknown to the majority of voters.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who succeeded current Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is viewed favorably by 27 percent and unfavorably by 20 percent, with 53 percent having no opinion.

Also, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has a 29-17-54 percent favorability rating. His re-elect rating is 32-35 percent, the poll shows.

"In this year's down ballot races, the incumbents remain unknown or little known to most voters despite DiNapoli having served for more than seven years and Schneiderman more than three," said Steven Greenberg, a Siena College pollster. "With six months until Election Day, voters are not enthusiastic about re-electing either one. However, with both having no publicly identified opponent, it's still too early to say either is electorally vulnerable."

In a head-to-head matchup, Cuomo holds a better than two-to-one lead over his Republican challenger, Westchester Executive Rob Astorino.

The poll shows voters favor Cuomo 58-28 percent over Astorino, which is slightly down from March, 61-26 percent.

However, if the race includes a Working Families Party candidate perceived to be more liberal or progressive than Cuomo, his lead falls to 15 points, with 39 percent for Cuomo, and 24 percent for both Astorino and the unnamed WFP candidate, according to the poll.

"While Cuomo continues to hold a dominant position in a head-to-head matchup against Astorino, his lead is cut in half when a WFP candidate perceived to be more liberal or progressive than Cuomo is added to the mix," Greenberg said.

"More than 30 percent of Democrats, liberals, union households, New York City and black voters opt for a liberal WFP candidate. It's been 24 years since a minor party candidate grabbed 20 percent of the gubernatorial vote, however, clearly facing opponents from both sides of the political spectrum would create a challenge for Cuomo."

Among all voters, 46 percent describe Cuomo as moderate, compared to 35 percent liberal and 11 percent conservative and are evenly divided on whether he should be more of a liberal or more of a conservative, the poll shows.

By a 59-29 percent margin, voters describe Cuomo as a pragmatic Democrat who works well with Republicans rather than a partisan Democrat who doesn't. And by a 41-27 percent margin, voters say Cuomo favors businesses and their views over unions.

"Cuomo's dilemma with a challenge from the left can be at least partly explained by the fact that Democrats see Cuomo as not liberal enough," said Greenberg.

"More than twice as many Democrats describe Cuomo as moderate rather than liberal. By better than two-to-one, they want to see him be more of a liberal. By four-to-one, they see him as a pragmatic Democrat rather than a partisan Democrat. And by nearly two-to-one they say he's favored business groups and their positions over labor unions and their positions."

Although 84 percent of voters say corruption in Albany is a serious problem, less than one-third have followed the Moreland Commission closely and only one-quarter have heard or read at least some about the disbanding of the commission, the poll shows.

The Moreland Act was passed by the legislature, signed into law in 1907 and authorizes the governor to investigate the management and affairs of any department of the state.

Federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District in New York, was heading up the investigative effort until Cuomo disbanded the commission, citing budgetary constraints.

"While most voters did not follow the news about the Moreland Commission and the budget compromise that led to its disbanding, the vast majority of voters think that corruption in state government is a serious problem," Greenberg said.

"When asked whether they agree more with a federal prosecutor, who says the commission should have been allowed to continue investigating corruption, or the governor, who says the new laws justify disbanding the commission, voters overwhelmingly side with the prosecutor. The word Moreland no longer poses an investigative threat to legislators or others in state government. The question now is will it pose a political threat to the governor."

Legal Newsline: Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com

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