50 Takes on Trump: New York by Luke Perry
50 Takes on Trump is a regular series in which Political Scientists analyze how President Trump has been received in his/her state.
New York has the reputation of being a very liberal state thanks to New York City, which holds 43 percent of the state’s population. Hillary Clinton won New York's 29 electoral votes in a 20 point landslide by winning New York City, its suburbs, and other urban centers throughout the state, including Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse and Rochester.
At the same time, New York City comprises just 304 of the 55,000 square miles statewide. This means that New York perspectives on Donald Trump vary greatly depending on where you live. This parallels other states, but is a bit unusual, given how consistently New York votes Democratic in presidential elections. The last Republican presidential candidate to win the state was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Upstate Republicans in the state legislature, led by Senator Joseph Griffo (47th District), helped secure New York's signing of the National Popular Vote Compact awarding the state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote,after states comprising a majority of electoral votes have signed on. If or when this happens remains to be seen, though it does reflect bi-partisan support for the country moving toward the popular vote in electing presidents.
The nature of conservatism upstate is generally more moderate than the GOP base. New York Republicans tend to be less concerned with social issues and more concerned with fiscal issues, national security, and individual freedoms, such as gun rights in response to the SAFE act. As a result, the Trump presidency has resulted in some tension within the state GOP between moderate and pro-Trump factions. This was evident in NY-22. for instance, where outgoing Representative Richard Hanna, the only sitting House GOP member to endorse Hillary Clinton, was replaced by Trump supporter Claudia Tenney, who faced difficult primary and general election races.
President Obama was particularly popular in New York, topping 60 percent twice, around five points better than Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore. This helps explains overwhelming opposition (a nearly 30 point margin) to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with the American Health Care Act by
Sienna College polling has demonstrated how New Yorkers compartmentalize the direction of the state from the direction of the country. Voters believed the state is on the right track (52 to 33 percent) after the recent approval of the state budget, the major thrust of the annual state legislative session. By similar margins; however, voters also believe the country is headed in the wrong direction (51 percent to 36 percent).
Though 51 percent is actually a ten point improvement from March, assessments of President Trump have remained consistently and deeply unfavorable. Trump’s favorability (34 percent to 61 percent) and job performance (28 percent to 69 percent) are below national norms.
This widespread rejection of Trump is most acutely felt in New York City. Shared opposition has helped to unite Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. The two have a history of disagreements over city vs. state disputes, at times threatening progressive policy making.
Nationally, Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader, has been leading Congressional Democrats in opposing the Trump administration at every turn. Trump spoke favorably of Schumer during the transition. The two have known each other for years, and were friendly, but not friends.
Schumer expressed willingness to work with Trump on areas of mutual agreement, such as infrastructure. This quickly faded when Schumer helped orchestrate defense of Obamacare (Trump tweeted Schumer was "head clown") and pressure from the base of the Democratic party pushed for wholesale rejection of the Trump presidency, from federal appointees to policy.
2016 was remarkable in producing two nominees from New York. The state looks to continue to be at the forefront of national politics in coming years as well. Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand are widely considered potential presidential candidates, while Schumer would become Senate Majority Leader if the Democrats can pick up a few seats in 2018 or 2020.
Donald Trump is the first president from New York since Franklin Roosevelt. So far, this has delighted most upstate Republicans and dismayed downstate Democrats. There appears to be little the president can do to change that.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Professor and Chair of Government at Utica College.