A recent New York Times poll of Gotham residents on the state of the city and on Mayor Bloomberg’s popularity contained striking information that didn’t make it into the paper (only those who obtained the poll itself could find it). New York’s minorities, the poll numbers show, don’t support the mayor’s recent tax increases—in fact, blacks and Hispanics oppose them at higher rates than do the city’s whites. The results belie the perception that minorities are friendlier than other voters to tax increases and tend to oppose government cost cutting—a perception that rests on the tax-friendly, free-spending voting patterns of the city’s minority pols rather than on the actual views of minority voters.
New Yorkers are most riled up over the property-tax hike. In all, 74 percent of New Yorkers opposed it. But the numbers are even higher among minorities: 84 percent of blacks and 80 percent of Hispanics don’t support the increase. The stratospheric minority opposition is especially noteworthy, because only about 28 percent of black New Yorkers and 14 percent of Hispanics in the city own their homes. But minority home-ownership rates are increasing rapidly in Gotham, so the poll numbers may reflect the aspirations of those hoping to achieve the American dream—and their very real fear that tax increases will make it harder to do so.
The Times’s poll also found that only 34 percent of New Yorkers considered the city’s recent boost in the sales tax reasonable. But this tax hike, too, was most unpopular among black New Yorkers, with just a minuscule 19 percent endorsing it, while only 30 percent of Hispanics favored it. By contrast, 44 percent of white New Yorkers supported it.
The only new levy that New Yorkers found okay was the boost in the state’s personal income tax for those earning more than $100,000 yearly, with 59 percent of respondents supporting such a measure. But while 68 percent of white New Yorkers (and 59 percent of Hispanics) backed the increase, only 49 percent of blacks approved.
Instead of tax increases, the poll found, a majority of New Yorkers want more cost savings, above all from the city’s workforce—55 percent of New Yorkers think city workers should be doing more to help the city through its budget problems. Hispanics were the toughest on the public workforce: 63 percent said city workers should contribute more, compared with 53 percent of blacks and 55 percent of whites.
As for ways to boost city worker productivity, the one New Yorkers most strongly support—two-thirds of poll respondents thought it a good idea—is requiring public employees to extend their workweek to 40 hours, up from the cushy 35 to 37 hours per week some city workers currently clock in. Hispanic New Yorkers were the most enthusiastic about the idea, with 71 percent calling for a longer city workweek; 59 percent of black respondents agreed. The minority support for this measure shows good sense. A Citizens Budget Commission study estimated that New York could slash 8,500 positions by forcing city employees to work 40-hour weeks, just like their private-sector counterparts. The savings: a huge $500 million annually.
Mayor Bloomberg, troubled by dismally low poll numbers among black and Hispanic voters, has pledged to win back minority confidence. Thus far, he doesn’t seem to realize what’s most important to the city’s minorities.