NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York voters think scandal-tarred Governor David Paterson should remain in office but cannot do a good job, and that he acted unethically but will not get a fair hearing, a poll said on Tuesday.
The Democratic governor is the target of official queries into whether he abused powers of his office. One investigation is questioning if he intervened into a domestic abuse case against a top aide, and another is weighing potential criminal charges on grounds he illegally solicited and accepted gifts.
New Yorkers are giving Paterson the benefit of the doubt, according to the Marist College poll showing 68 percent want him to stay, 28 percent say quit and 6 percent are unsure.
“The No. 1 reason was they say they don’t know all the facts to prove he’s guilty of wrongdoing,” said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff.
“Public opinion at this point is: there’s not enough information to say he broke the law, and therefore he should serve out his term, even though we don’t like the job he’s doing,” Miringoff said.
Three in five voters said they think Paterson will be ineffective, and slightly more than half think he acted unethically. Only 19 percent approve of the job he is doing, according to the poll.
Paterson has ended his campaign to run for a new term, but he insists he will not resign, has not abused his office, has been the victim of rumor and that his name will be cleared.
“Voters don’t want any more disruption, any more chaos,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “They’re saying we know he’s already gone come December 31. Let him fill out the term, then goodbye.”
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether Paterson improperly intervened in a domestic abuse case in which a top aide was accused of assaulting a woman. Paterson spoke with the woman who later failed to appear in court and the case was dismissed.
Another top aid resigned on Tuesday, the third to quit, while a fourth has retired, since the accusations arose that Paterson and the State Police had intervened in the case.
The deputy secretary for public safety quit, calling those contacts “unacceptable regardless of their intent.” The State Police superintendent retired and on Tuesday his replacement also resigned. Paterson’s director of communications has also stepped down, citing matters of “integrity and commitment to public service.”
Thirty-eight percent of voters think Cuomo will treat Paterson fairly, and 58 percent said they would prefer to see a special prosecutor handle the investigation, the poll found. Cuomo, the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, is the leading likely Democratic contender to seek the governor’s job in November.
Marist polled 529 registered voters on March 8 by telephone. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Editing by Michelle Nichols and Doina Chiacu