New Yorkers Want Strong Ethics Laws

PoliceOfficerA strong majority of New Yorkers want new ethics laws passed to clean up state government, and few of them believe corruption in Albany can be stopped by prosecutors alone, a new poll finds.

The poll, conducted by Siena College and released on Monday, is the first snapshot of voters’ views on government ethics since the conviction of Sheldon Silver, the former State Assembly speaker, on charges of corruption last month. On Friday, a jury also convicted Dean G. Skelos, the former State Senate majority leader, and his son, Adam B. Skelos, on charges that included bribery and extortion. The poll was taken during the Skeloses’s trial but before the jury rendered a verdict.

The picture is unambiguously grim for the state’s lawmakers: About nine in 10 New York voters say corruption is a serious problem in Albany, including a majority who say it is a very serious problem. Nearly half of the state’s voters say recent corruption scandals have made them less likely to re-elect their own members of the Legislature.

Cynicism prevails about the prospects for change: Sixty-one percent of voters agreed with the statement, “Silver got caught, the next guy will do the same just more carefully.” Around two-thirds of voters said it would take new laws to prevent another scandal like the one that brought down Mr. Silver. The telephone survey of 822 registered voters was conducted between Dec. 6 and 10, and the margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

Leaders in Albany, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, have called for renewed action on ethics in the aftermath of the Silver and Skelos trials. But it remains unclear if and how recent rhetoric might translate into legislation.

Previous initiatives to overhaul the state’s ethics laws — including a push this year after the arrests of Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, and Mr. Skelos, a Republican from Long Island — have foundered or resulted in only an incremental strengthening of the rules. New Yorkers continue to give tepid marks to Mr. Cuomo, whose poll numbers dipped at the start of the year amid widespread alarm about Albany corruption. The governor is viewed favorably by about half of the state’s voters. About four in 10 voters say he is doing a good or excellent job, while 59 percent rate his performance as fair or poor. If the recent series of corruption trials has made Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, into something of a celebrity among political elites, he remains mostly unknown to voters.

Just a under a fifth of New York voters had a favorable view of Mr. Bharara, but three-quarters had no opinion of him at all.