Teenagers who are accused of a crime should be treated as juveniles and not be sent to adult prisons, say 59 percent of New York state voters, compared to 29 percent who say they should be treated as adults, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released March 30.
At issue is whether 16- and 17-year-old New Yorkers should be treated as adults in the state prison system. The so, called “Raise the Age” campaign has been trying to change the policy for several years, and in fact, the issue has been a sticking point for the 2017-2018 budget negotiations.
Republicans say (49 to 40 percent) these teenagers should be charged as adults, but every other party, gender, educational, age, racial and regional group polled by Quinnipiac says they should be charged as minors.
New York and North Carolina are the only two states that automatically processes, prosecutes and incarcerates 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Under current state law, young people are incarcerated with adults in local jails while awaiting trial, and then matriculated into the greater adult prison population if found guilty.
However, 86 percent of these youth were arrested for non-violent offenses, according to the Governor’s Office.
Raise the age advocates often point out that youth processed as adults have a 26 percent higher likelihood of re-incarceration than youth processed as juveniles.
“New Yorkers love their children. They don’t want to put them in prison with adults and they want to pay for college for low-income students,” said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
“Reformers often point out that it costs more to keep a kid in prison than it does to send him to Harvard, or in this case, SUNY Oneonta,” Carroll added.
Speaking of SUNY, 70 percent of voters statewide support the idea of providing free tuition to in-state public colleges and universities for New York students whose family income is $125,000 or less. This was another major policy priority for the governor that will need to be settled before a final budget is adopted.
Republicans oppose the measure 54 to 44 percent, while all other groups support it by wide margins. White voters with no college degree back the measure 61 to 34 percent.
Meanwhile, satisfaction with life in New York hits a 15-year high as 56 percent of voters say they are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in the state. By comparison, 43 percent say they are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”
This is the highest satisfaction rate since a 62 percent satisfaction rate was recorded in a September 26, 2002, Quinnipiac University poll.
Democrats are more than twice as satisfied as Republicans, with 76 percent very or somewhat satisfied, compared to 31 percent for Republicans.
Satisfaction is 63 percent among New York City voters, 60 percent among suburban voters and 48 percent among upstate voters.
The issue of government corruption, which has been relegated to the back burner in Albany, as of late, is still a serious issue for many New York voters, according to the poll.
A total of 80 percent of voters say government corruption in Albany is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. Voters are divided on whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature will try to address the problem in 2017 — 44 percent say they will and 43 percent say they won’t.
Gov. Cuomo is “part of the problem of ethics in government,” 43 percent of voters say, as 44 percent say he’s “part of the solution.”
Voters overwhelmingly say (78 to 14 percent) that elected state officials convicted of a felony should lose their pension.
“Corruption is an Albany problem, voters think, and they’re dubious about whether Gov. Andrew and the State Legislature will try to fix it,” Carroll said. “If an elected official is convicted, voters would punish their families by cancelling their pensions.”
From March 23 to March 27, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,446 New York state voters with live interviewers calling landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.