Mayor de Blasio Has Lost Support of White New Yorkers, Poll Finds

Michael M. Grynbaum et al., New York Times, November 17, 2015

Nearing the midpoint of his term, Mayor Bill de Blasio is confronting a city that is deeply divided about his ability to lead, with his efforts to create a more liberal New York overshadowed by growing worries about homelessness and crime, a new poll finds.

Nowhere is that concern more visible than among a group, long cool to Mr. de Blasio, that he has now decisively lost: whites.

Just 28 percent of white New Yorkers approve of the Democratic mayor’s performance, and 59 percent now disapprove, up sharply from the start of his term, according to a citywide poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College. Nearly half say that the city is a worse place to live under his watch–only 9 percent say it is better–and 51 percent say New York is now less safe, even as crime statistics reach historic lows.

Over all, 52 percent of New Yorkers say the city is on the wrong track, including 62 percent of whites and 51 percent of Hispanics. Black residents are evenly split.

Mr. de Blasio’s support among white residents has descended to a level so dismal that it has challenged a core assumption of his political strategy: that in a diversifying city, moderate white voters had lost much of their electoral influence, and that the mayor’s path to re-election runs through nonwhite communities.

In early 2014, not long after his term began, 38 percent of whites approved and 45 percent disapproved of Mr. de Blasio’s performance.

The mayor’s advisers are now making concerted efforts to recapture the support–or, at least, tamp down the opposition–of a group that, aides fear, could rally around a potential challenger in 2017.

In recent weeks, Mr. de Blasio has paved roads on Staten Island; toughened his remarks on crime; become a regular presence on the radio station WNYC, a gathering point for white liberal New York; and scrapped his acidic criticism of his predecessor, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

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The mayor’s overall approval rating is at 44 percent, down from 52 percent last December; 38 percent said they disapproved, and 18 percent had no opinion.

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Whites in New York are a large and politically diverse constituency that includes Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, affluent Manhattanites (and increasingly Brooklynites) and residents of the blue-collar redoubts of outer Queens and Staten Island. In the 2013 mayoral race, whites made up 45 percent of the electorate, with 54 percent supporting Mr. de Blasio.

The mayor has no clear challenger in a re-election bid, and despite his standing with whites, Mr. de Blasio has more or less kept intact the coalition that elected him in 2013: He received positive approval ratings from 57 percent of black residents and 54 percent of Hispanic residents, and from 56 percent of self-described liberals.

Still, a year ago, 70 percent of blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics expressed their approval. Now, only the barest majority of Democrats, 51 percent, approve of the mayor’s job performance. That base of support could be sorely tested if Mr. de Blasio remains deeply unpopular with whites.

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