WXXI AM News

Poll finds backing for bail reform plummets

Feb 24, 2020

A new poll out Monday shows support for the state's bail reform plummeting, following weeks of pushback about the new laws from police groups and prosecutors.

The Siena College poll finds that just one-third of New Yorkers now think that the laws were a good idea. They ended most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes and shortened the time that prosecutors have to hand over evidence to defendants. When bail reform was first approved last April, 55% of voters liked the law. 

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg said the shift can in part be attributed to the public debate playing out in the media, where law enforcement groups offer examples of repeat offenders they say are going free because of the new laws. 

"Voters know what's going on," Greenberg said.

Pro-bail reform groups have begun running television ads on Long Island, where the public has been divided on the issue. Greenberg said in those suburban areas, support for the bail reform laws has risen slightly, though the majority still oppose it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is one of several Democratic lawmakers who backed the law but now say it may need some revisions. Cuomo said he hopes some changes can be included in the state budget, due at the end of March. He said by then, there will be some data collected on how well the law is working.

"I think that is an appropriate amount of time to have an intelligent conversation," Cuomo said. "Let emotions subside. Let people calm down a little bit."

Cuomo said he wants to separate the facts from what he calls "crazy partisanship."

Some Democrats in the Senate say they also want to make some changes, including potentially giving judges more leeway to assign bail to some defendants. Bail reform supporters are angered by those proposals and plan protests at the Capitol this week.

So far, Democrats in the Assembly say they don't want to change the law.

Another recently enacted law that's been causing controversy is the Green Light legislation, which began in mid-December and allows undocumented immigrants to apply for standard driver's licenses.

The Trump administration has said because that law shields DMV data from federal agencies, New Yorkers will no longer be eligible for Trusted Traveler programs like NEXUS and Global Entry. The Green Light law has never been popular overall with voters, though Greenberg said it's always been divided along political party lines.

The poll finds backing for the law split at 48%-48%, with Democrats in favor by 63% and Republicans opposed by 77%.

Cuomo said he's continuing to try to talk to federal agencies to break the standoff over the DMV data, but so far has not had any success.

The poll also asked about the popularity of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. It found that state lawmakers are viewed slightly more favorably than the governor, with the Legislature at 46% and the governor at 44%. Cuomo has held office for nine years, and has been elected three times. Greenberg calls it the "third-term blues."