In the court of public opinion, Rep. Brian Higgins wins a decisive verdict.
Higgins gets a favorable rating from nearly 8 in 10 voters, according to a Siena College poll commissioned by The Buffalo News and WGRZ-TV.
“You rarely see elected officials get favorability ratings in the upper 70s,” said Siena pollster Steven A. Greenberg. “Truly phenomenal numbers, and they’re across-the-board.”
Nearly 6 in 10 voters also have a favorable opinion of Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, though he remains unknown to 2 in 10 voters.
And 51 percent of city voters think New York State is on the right track.
The telephone survey asked a series of questions about leaders in the city to 966 registered voters Aug. 11-13.
Higgins was the clear favorite among five public officials who were the subjects of survey questions.
Darryl Ellis, 74, said he likes how Higgins got the New York Power Authority to improve the waterfront and credited him with bringing progress to the outer harbor.
“There was nothing going on,” said Ellis, who lives on the West Side.
Pat Hogan, 49, said he likes how Higgins opened up more places for fishing.
“He’s getting us access back from all the manufacturing plants that are closed,” said Hogan, who lives in South Buffalo and likes to fish at the Union Ship Canal.
Citywide, 77 percent of voters said they had a favorable opinion of Higgins, and 14 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion. Nine percent said they had no opinion, or didn’t know.
“When you work hard to do good things for the community, you are fortunate enough to represent, politics has a way of working itself out,” Higgins said in a statement.
The Democratic congressman, who represents Buffalo, Niagara Falls and surrounding suburbs, gets an 80 percent favorable rating among Democrats, but also has a 57 percent favorable rating among Republicans. A favorable opinion of him was expressed by 8 in 10 white voters and 7 in 10 black voters.
Poloncarz, a Democrat who was elected county comptroller in 2005 and county executive in 2011, has a favorable rating of 59 percent and an unfavorable rating of 21 percent. When the pool of respondents is separated by party, 63 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of him, while 46 percent of Republicans do. When the pool is separated by race, 63 percent of white voters have a favorable opinion of him, and 49 percent of black voters do.
One in 5 voters didn’t know Poloncarz or had no opinion of him, a figure that holds true even when the pool of voters is limited to Democrats. A third of black voters and nearly 2 in 5 voters younger than 35 did not have an opinion of him.
Poloncarz said that many residents aren’t aware of the services the county provides and that he was “not totally surprised” by the number of city voters who don’t know who he is.
“One thing I’ve learned is, even after six years as comptroller, that some people are unaware of who their representatives are,” he said.
Poloncarz hasn’t been visible enough and hasn’t championed issues enough, said Bruce L. Fisher, director of the economics and finance department at SUNY Buffalo State.
“He’s put things forward but he’s not been an effective, penetrating, relentless advocate for any specific thing,” said Fisher, who was deputy county executive for eight years under Joel A. Giambra.
Greenberg, the pollster, had a different take, saying that Poloncarz is doing well with voters and that it’s not uncommon for city voters, such as the pool in this poll, to know about their city government more than their county government.
The poll showed Mayor Byron W. Brown’s favorability rating at 58 percent among voters of all political affiliations; developer and School Board member Carl P. Paladino’s at 44 percent, with an unfavorable rating of 47 percent; and School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown’s at 28 percent, with a 35 percent unfavorable rating.
The responses to the question about whether New York State is on the right track should not be construed as a measure of whether voters think Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is doing a good job, said Greenberg. Cuomo’s favorability was not polled. “It’s sort of a combination of politics and economics,” Greenberg said. “People bring to that question what they want.”
More Buffalo voters think New York State is headed in the right direction, compared with those in the rest of the state, and are much more optimistic than the general upstate population.
While 51 percent of Buffalo voters think the state is on the right track, and 35 percent think it is headed in the wrong direction, a statewide Siena poll Aug. 4-7 found that 47 percent of voters think the state is on the right track and that 40 percent do not. However, just 41 percent of upstate voters think the state is on the right track, while 49 percent think it is headed in the wrong direction.