By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- For months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's approval rating has remained sky high, with poll after poll showing about 70 percent of New York voters with a favorable opinion of him and his work.
One group, however, has been somewhat stubborn in recent months: young voters.
Voters between the age of 18 and 34 were split on Cuomo in the most recent Siena survey released Tuesday, with 47 percent holding a favorable opinion of the first-term Democrat and 46 percent unfavorable.
It's in stark contrast to middle-aged and older voters, who back the governor by as much as 82 percent of those polled. Additionally, 79 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans supported Cuomo in Tuesday's poll, as did 68 percent of men to 73 percent of women.
"We have seen that going back to two years ago, going back to the gubernatorial campaign," Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said of the young voters. "The governor has always had extraordinarily high support and favorability rating from those voters 55 and older, and the weakest he has been is with voters 35 and younger."
Cuomo's approval rating among young voters has risen and fallen during his 19-month tenure as the state's chief executive.
It jumped to 70 percent in the July 2011 Siena poll, just after he ushered New York's same-sex marriage law through the Legislature. Since then, it has see-sawed, dipping to a new low this month after it was at 50 percent in July and 53 percent in June.
The reasons for the disparity among young and old voters aren't apparent, and other polls have shown it to be less stark. A May survey from Quinnipiac University showed 62 percent of young voters approved of the job Cuomo was doing, compared to 74 percent over the age of 55. A Marist College poll in April found 52 percent of voters between 18 and 29 approved, and 27 percent disapproved.
"Certainly, we know younger voters tend to pay less attention to politics, to government than do middle-aged and older voters," Greenberg said. "They vote in a much lower percentage than older voters."
Glenn Oldhoff, president of the New York State Young Democrats, said he's been pleased with the attention Cuomo has paid to his generation.
"The governor has been working fairly hard at bringing young people and addressing our issues," said Oldhoff, an Ossining, Westchester County, resident. "We're going down to the (Democratic National) Convention and we're going to have the largest youth delegation, and I know the governor is listening to our voters."
Others pointed to issues such as the difficult economic conditions in New York and across the nation, saying the economy has particularly affected recent graduates entering a lackluster job market.
Fairly or unfairly, governors and the president take the heat for a poor economy, said Giovanni Scaringi, chairman of the New York State Young Republicans.
"I think the economy is really hitting young people very, very hard," said Scaringi, a Nanuet, Rockland County resident. "As it goes, the executive is the one that usually picks up the positive or takes the negative of whatever the condition of his or her state or country may be in at any one given time."
The under-35 crowd gave poorer marks to most New York officials compared to older groups in the latest Siena poll.
Fifty-six percent gave Sen. Charles Schumer a favorable rating, for example, compared to 68 percent of those age 35 to 54. For state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, 19 percent of young voters said they have an unfavorable opinion, compared to 14 percent favorable -- and 66 percent who didn't know or had no opinion.
At the same time, a record number of voters -- 56 percent overall; 53 percent age 18 to 34 -- said the state was "heading in the right direction."
Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, said Cuomo's rating among young voters isn't reflective of the work he's done.
"I think the governor has done an excellent job at serving that demographic," said Carlucci, 31, the youngest member of the Senate. "I think when people are educated about things like the property-tax cap, two on-time budgets, it will resonate with the younger demographic."
Meanwhile, the Siena poll showed Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate did nothing to boost his chances in heavily Democratic New York.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, held a 29 percentange-point lead in this month's survey, virtually unchanged from the previous month. Sixty-two percent of New York voters backed Obama, compared to 33 percent for Romney and 5 percent undecided.
Romney, a Republican and former Massachusetts governor, tapped Ryan as his pick for vice president earlier this month. A congressman from Wisconsin, Ryan is known for his austere budget plan and proposed Medicare reforms.
The telephone poll was conducted between August 14 and 19, with 671 registered voters surveyed. It contains a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.