- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - New York City voters disagree with Mayor Bill de Blasio on several key policies during his first year in office, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Eight-six percent of voters support universal pre-kindergarten but they prefer Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to pay for it from the state budget over de Blasio’s plan to raise taxes on the rich by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, according the Quinnipiac University poll.

The tax hike, the mayor’s signature campaign promise, appears to be on life support in Albany. But the state Senate voted last week to allocate $540 million in the state budget to the city for pre-kindergarten, a figure in line with what de Blasio says New York needs and one that is far more than what Cuomo originally proposed.

De Blasio has suggested that Cuomo’s plan does not contain realistic funding, likening it to “free candy.”

“This poll confirms that people in New York City support universal pre-kindergarten,” said mayoral spokesman Phil Walzak. “Mayor de Blasio has been the driving force behind this issue and putting it in the public discourse.”

Voters appear split on charter schools: 40 percent believe de Blasio should increase the number of the privately run but publicly funded schools, while 39 percent believe the number should stay the same and 14 say it should be decreased. De Blasio has long sought to slow down expansion of charter schools but has said he does not plan to eliminate them.

But his administration was caught off-guard by the opposition it faced this month after it decided to overturn three of the 17 charters given free rent in public schools during the finals days of Michael Bloomberg’s administration. Within days, Cuomo also gave a full-throated defense of charter schools, and a multimillion-dollar ad campaign was launched attacking the mayor’s decision, which de Blasio staffers believe shaped the public impression that the mayor opposes the schools.

Moreover, 64 percent of voters say they disagree with de Blasio’s decision to ban carriage horses from the city streets and Central Park while only 24 percent support his stance. De Blasio made the carriage horse ban a campaign promise but has come under increased criticism from those- including from actor Liam Neeson - who believe the horses are a city institution and that banning them would cost dozens of people their jobs.

“The mayor has been very clear that he thinks that in the 21st century horses have no place on busy New York City streets,” Walzak said. The mayor has proposed replacing them with electric cars.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

It comes a day after another Quinnipiac poll found that 44 percent of voters approve of de Blasio’s job performance while 34 percent disapprove. He scored far lower than the 62 percent approval rating Bloomberg received at the same point of his first term, but that 2002 poll was taken mere months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

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