By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY, NY-- Just more than half of New Yorkers believe the state economy is stagnant while nearly 30 percent think it's getting worse, according to a poll released Wednesday.
But the proportion of New Yorkers who think the economy is improving has grown slightly -- up to 21 percent from 18 percent when pollsters asked the same question in early March, the Wall Street Journal/NBC New York/Marist College survey found.
"Although New Yorkers still see a sluggish state economy, they don't think Governor Cuomo is to blame," Marist pollster Lee Miringoff said in a statement. "By more than four to one, voters believe the economic condition of the state is something the governor inherited, not the result of his policies."
About 74 percent said the state economy was already in bad shape when Cuomo took office in 2011, while 17 percent said he's caused the economy to worsen. Nine percent were unsure.
The view that Cuomo acquired an ailing economy extends across party lines. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats believe that, as well as 72 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of non-enrolled voters.
"The deepest-seated weaknesses in the state economy long predate Governor Cuomo," said EJ McMahon, senior fellow for the fiscally conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy. "On the other hand, he claims to have fixed (the economy), which is not the case."
McMahon pointed to the statewide 2 percent property-tax cap, which Cuomo pushed his first year. But in terms of job creation and unemployment, especially upstate, New York still lags the nation.
Hydraulic fracturing, higher education, technology and farming have all been floated as potential economic boosters for upstate, as Gannett's Albany Bureau has reported in the yearlong series, "Rebuilding New York's Economy."
Almost six in 10 voters -- 58 percent -- think the state is still in an economic recession, while 39 percent think it's not, according to the poll. Three percent are unsure.
But a majority of voters -- 53 percent -- believe the state is moving in the right direction, slightly more than in early March, when 51 percent believed it was moving in the right direction. Forty-one percent believe it's moving in the wrong direction, compared with 44 percent two months ago. Six percent are unsure.
The Cuomo administration, through its economic-development arm, has been airing television commercials touting the state's business climate, arguing that it has vastly improved. The ads highlight positive economic indicators, such as tax cuts and incentives.
In a video message Cuomo filmed last month to tout the passage of the state budget, he said New York was "rising once again."
"Since I took office, New York state has created more than 300,000 new private sector jobs. That's 17 consecutive months of job growth," he said. "We've welcomed 20,000 new small businesses who have opened in up their doors in communities all across the state and revitalized our regional economies.
"Today, New York has more private sector jobs than ever before," the governor continued.
McMahon said Cuomo is stretching the truth.
"I think the administration is risking its credibility," McMahon said. "They're not just accentuating the positive; I think they've been misleadingly using statistics in a way that doesn't really confront the whole story."
The survey was conducted with 956 registered voters from April 16-18. The poll has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.