As Mayor Eric Adams passes the halfway mark of his administration, supermajorities (68 percent) of likely New York City voters believe that things are on the wrong track, according to a Manhattan Institute poll taken in the second week of April. The latest figures spell trouble for Adams, who is gearing up for his reelection bid next year facing a migrant crisis and a rash of subway violence.

In recent months, Adams’s approval rating plunged to record lows. In December 2023, a Quinnipiac poll found that 28 percent of voters approved and 58 percent disapproved of the mayor’s job performance, the lowest level for a mayor since its polling began in 1996. In MI’s poll this month, 24 percent of likely voters approve of Adams, while 73 percent disapprove. Only one in four has a favorable impression of Adams, while 69 percent view him unfavorably, including 44 percent reporting a very unfavorable opinion. Tellingly, when asked whether voters would select Adams or another candidate in an election held today, only 16 percent would opt to reelect the mayor, compared with 65 percent who would select someone else and 19 percent who aren’t sure.

By contrast, President Joe Biden and Governor Kathy Hochul get better marks. If November’s presidential election were held today, 52 percent of respondents would vote to reelect the president, more than double the 25 percent backing former President Donald Trump. Biden enjoys a 52 percent–47 percent favorability rating in New York, even as the federal government has failed to stem the migrant crisis or provide meaningful funding to the city to cover shelter costs, which Adams has repeatedly decried. The governor’s 43 percent favorable and 52 percent unfavorable rating falls between that of the president and mayor. 

Despite encouraging news that murders across the city are falling to pre-pandemic levels, New Yorkers remain highly concerned about crime and public safety. Forty percent of respondents cite it as their most important issue, outpacing housing costs (22 percent), the migrant crisis (16 percent), homelessness (6 percent), and schools (5 percent). Voters share a consensus (62 percent) that the city is less safe today than four years ago. 

Consequently, New Yorkers generally want more cops on the streets and in the subway system. A mere 14 percent of respondents wish to see fewer officers throughout the city, and an even smaller share (11 percent) prefers a smaller police presence in the subway system. By contrast, 61 percent of respondents believe that the city needs more officers in general, and a whopping 71 percent want more cops in subways.

Voters were also asked about Rikers Island, which, by law, is scheduled for closure in 2027 and replacement by four borough-based jails. A majority (53 percent) opposes the city’s current plan, some 20 percent more than those who support replacement by borough jails. Among opponents, 68 percent worry that the city won’t have enough jail beds to keep potentially dangerous individuals off the streets. A similar share among supporters, 67 percent, cites Rikers’s unsafe track record to justify the jail’s closure.

The migrant crisis, now entering its third year, also weighed heavily on voters’ minds. Three-quarters of respondents report being either very (54 percent) or somewhat (21 percent) concerned about the inflow of migrants. Notably, a supermajority (66 percent) of Hispanic voters reports being very concerned, exceeding their white (48 percent), black (53 percent), and Asian (62 percent) counterparts.

Voter preferences for responding to the crisis are mixed. New York has been a sanctuary city since 1989, but a slim voting majority (53 percent) now opposes the policy that limits local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. The same percentage, however, supports New York City’s right to shelter, which requires providing an overnight bed to those requesting one. A similar majority (52 percent), though, opposes giving migrants debit cards for food and other necessities. And despite New York’s longstanding tolerance of undocumented workers, 43 percent of voters would prefer to handle the present crisis by deporting all or most migrants who came illegally—a far greater share than those who wish to provide work authorization (29 percent) or a pathway to citizenship (22 percent). It’s reasonable, then, to believe that New Yorkers will have less acceptance for migrants who fail to file for asylum in time or seek to evade deportation following a failed asylum hearing.

The survey adds evidence of mounting discontent among Hispanic New Yorkers, who have reported deteriorating quality of life in other recent polls. MI’s survey shows that Adams’s favorability among these voters—a key constituency during his 2021 campaign—now stands at 42 percent favorable to 52 percent unfavorable. Hispanics, at 49 percent, top the list of those strongly opposing the city’s sanctuary policy. This diverges sharply from the 22 percent of Democrats who feel likewise, indicating a widening rift between Hispanic voters and the Democratic Party. Given that Hispanics participate in the city’s labor force at higher rates than non-Hispanic groups, but at lower average educational attainment, their aversion to New York’s sanctuary-city status might plausibly be explained by housing and labor competition from migrants, some of whom are participating as day laborers in the underground economy.

What are some key takeaways for Adams? To assure voters that crime is heading in the right direction, the mayor likely needs to achieve broader reductions in serious index crime and in visible disorder—especially in the subway system. The laudable progress that the city has made on reducing homicides and shootings, which tend to be concentrated in a few neighborhoods, won’t necessarily be felt by voters. And though Adams has urged the federal government to step up to its responsibilities and create an orderly immigration system, city voters are looking for a way out of the migrant crisis.

Heading into next year, the mayor’s electoral prospects hinge on convincing voters that he can make good on his campaign promise to get the stuff that they care about done. 

Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images


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