An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers want state officials to keep emails and other electronic records longer than 90 days, a Siena College released this morning found.

The survey found that by a margin of 80 percent to 16 percent, voters want the state to hang on to emails longer than the 90-day purge policy currently in place, which is being re-assessed after the Cuomo administration was criticized for the widespread deletion of executive branch emails.

Still, most voters have not heard about the controversy over the deletion policy. The poll found only 41 percent of voters were aware of the story.

And despite the pounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken on the issue in Albany, his favorability rating is largely unchanged: 57 percent, down from 59 percent last month.

But his job performance rating continues to be under water: Only 43 percent of voters approve of the job Cuomo is doing, the poll found, which is virtually unchanged from 44 percent last month.

Cuomo plans to hold an open-government summit on the state’s Freedom of Information Law, and is encouraging state lawmakers to voluntarily submit to FOIL, which generally does not apply to the Assembly and Senate.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had a similar purge policy in place, established in 2007 when Cuomo held the office. But he suspended it just before Cuomo’s office announced plans to hold the FOIL summit.

State lawmakers who have proposed legislation to create a seven-year email retention policy, modeled on what currently exists in Congress, have called on the governor to follow the AG’s lead and halt the 90-day purging immediately. So far, Cuomo has not heeded that call.

Meanwhile, New York voters believe hot-button policy matters like education and ethics reform should be separated from the budget talks, where Cuomo has significantly more power to shape the final outcome than the Legislature, the Siena poll found.

By a 54 percent to 41 percent margin, voters said they believe ethics measures should be left out of the budget talks.

A similar margin – 56 percent to 40 percent – told Siena that thorny education policy issues should also be left out of the negotiations over a spending plan, which is due on April 1.

Cuomo last week struck a two-way deal with the Democratic-led Assembly that includes new requirements for the disclosure of lawmakers’ private clients, greater control over per diem reimbursement and the promise to pass a constitutional amendment that would expand pension forfeiture for officials convicted of corruption.

Senate Republicans have so far refused to sign off on that deal.

Cuomo has repeatedly said he would hold up a budget agreement in order to win ethics reforms. If that happens, it would be the first late budget of his almost five-year tenure as governor.

Cuomo has touted the four on-time budgets in a row since taking office and that seems to have sunk in with voters: 69 percent believe it’s more important to have an on-time spending plan versus 29 percent who say it would be preferable to hold out for ethics changes in the wake of public corruption scandals – including the accusation that cost Assemblyman Sheldon Silver the speakership.

Voters are split on whether any ethics measures approved in Albany will have a positive impact.

“Small majorities of Democrats and downstaters think that if it was included in the budget, the governor’s ethics
package will reduce corruption,” said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg. “However, small majorities of Republicans, independents and upstaters think it will have little or no effect.”

Cuomo angered state lawmakers in both parties by including key aspects of his ethics reform proposal in his 30-day budget amendments, placing them in appropriations bills over which the Legislature has very little constitutional control.

Cuomo’s education reforms are also tied to a large swath of spending in the budget. The $142 billion plan would increase education aid by as much as $1.1 billion – but only if lawmakers go along with the entirety of the governor’s education reform agenda.

Cuomo wants to strengthen charter schools by lifting the statewide cap, reward teachers who perform well with $20,000 bonuses, make it easier for schools to fire teachers who do not perform well and create a receivership program for struggling schools.

Without enacting much of Cuomo’s education reform measures, education aid would increase by only $340 million. Lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly both proposed spending more money on education overall – $1.9 billion and $1.8 billion respectively.

As in previous polls, voters told Siena that they back the state’s teachers unions over Cuomo when it comes to education, 51 percent to 40 percent. And a broad majority of voters – 85 percent to 11 percent – believe both minority legislative conference leaders should be included in the budget talks.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, has been pushing to be included in the closed-door budget meetings in Cuomo’s office, which this year again include Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein even though he is no longer the co-president of the chamber.

Across the state, a large majority of voters – 77 percent – say they oppose a regional competition for economic incentives to spur job creation. Cuomo wants to divvy up $1.5 billion to the upstate regions on a competitive basis, but administration officials have sought to tout the program for providing more aid to the “losers” than it has in previous years to the top-achieving regions.

The poll of 800 New York voters was conducted from March 15 through March 19. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

SNY0315 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman