Siena Poll: Most New Yorkers support SAFE Act, oppose arming teachers

Mar 19, 2018

Newly-released numbers from Siena Research Institute suggest a wide majority of New York State residents support Gov. Andrew Cuomo's gun control legislation known as the SAFE Act and oppose the idea of arming teachers. The Siena poll also indicates while the public's view toward Cuomo's job performance has lowered, they continue to hold an overall favorable view of the governor.


Siena researchers compiled their data by calling 772 registered voters. Of those respondents, 61 percent expressed support for the SAFE Act, now in effect for five years, while 28 percent stated their opposition to the legislation. The support is up from 59 percent back in October 2015, while the opposition has decreased since then from 33 percent.

"Siena has asked about the SAFE Act since right after its passage and numerous times over the last five years. We always see consistent support for it," said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. 

Opinions on the SAFE Act were closer among those who stated to researchers that they own either a handgun or rifle. About one in five respondents said they own a firearm. By about 49-to-42, gun owners oppose the SAFE Act. By comparison, researchers counted more than two-thirds of respondents who do not own a gun at home are in favor of the SAFE Act.

"Geographically, downstate overwhelmingly supports it," Greenberg said. "But there is this belief out there that upstate opposes the SAFE Act. It's mostly divided but a plurality, 48 percent of upstaters, say they support the SAFE Act. Forty two percent of upstaters say they oppose it."

Voters who responded to the poll also expressed more support for banning the sale of assault-style weapons nationwide, by a 65-to-32 margin.

The gap was wider on the question of arming teachers. Sixty nine percent of respondents expressed opposition to the idea while 28 percent stated their support.

Eighty six percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats expressed opposition to arming teachers while 53 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans supported the idea. Gun owners were more closely split. By a margin of 50 percent to 45 percent, gun owners participating in the survey said they support arming teachers.  

Governor Cuomo himself gets mixed trends in the latest Siena poll. Overall, 52 percent of respondents gave the governor a favorable rating, while 40 percent offered an unfavorable view. The favorable rating is down by one point from February 2018 and down from 62 percent in January. His prospects for re-election, if one believes the numbers, are strong but in great part the poll shows most voters are still unfamiliar with his potential opponents. Among registered Democrats, Cuomo was preferred by 66 percent to 19 percent over actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, who on Monday confirmed her intention to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary challenge.

Republican candidates for Governor, Marc Molinaro and John DeFrancisco, remain largely unknown among voters who were polled. Of those responding, 76 percent replied they either had no knowledge or no opinion of DeFrancisco while 77 percent revealed having no knowledge of Molinaro. However, 66 percent of Republicans who took part in the survey said they would vote for either GOP candidate over Cuomo if the election were held today. Likewise, 82 percent of Democrats responding answered they would vote for the incumbent.

Greenberg says it's important to remember that it's early in the campaign season and the numbers will certainly change as voters become more familiar with the candidates. 

"This is March. The primary is in September and the election is in November. But right now Cuomo is in a strong position for re-election, six and eight months out from those elections," Greenberg said.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, remains unpopular among a majority of New Yorkers, though Greenberg noted that the opinions vary among party lines. Overall, 63 percent of respondents expressed an unfavorable opinion of the president.