New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ words could not have been blunter when addressing a community meeting in Manhattan:
“Never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City.”
The problem in question? The arrival of an estimated 100,000 migrants to the city since April 2022, which has led Mayor Adams to declare a state of emergency as the city estimates it faces a budget bill of $12 billion by 2025 if the issue goes unaddressed.
In a poll of New York City voters conducted for Newsweek last week (and concluded hours before Mayor Adams’ gloomy speech), we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree that their city is facing a crisis.
65% agree that New York City is facing a migrant crisis at this moment, including 70% of Biden 2020 and 72% of Trump 2020 voters. Only 11% disagree.
In particular, 39% disapprove of Mayor Adams’ performance managing the migrant situation, while only 30% approve, earning him a net approval rating of -9% on the issue.
Even more New Yorkers (42%) disapprove of President Biden’s performance on the issue, although his net approval rating (-9%) is the same on the issue as the Mayor’s.
These negative ratings on the migrant crisis contrast with both figures’ positive net approval ratings among New Yorkers for their overall performances in their respective jobs.
Adams holds a net positive approval rating of +4%, with 34% approving of his job performance against 30% who disapprove, and President Biden enjoys an even stronger approval rating, with 44% approving and 31% disapproving of his performance as President, for an overall net approval rating of +13%.
In addition, both are regarded as an upgrade in their respective jobs than either of their immediate predecessors. A majority (51%) say Biden has been a better President than Donald Trump, while a plurality (35%) say that Adams has been a better Mayor of New York than Bill de Blasio.
Disapproval for Adams and Biden on the migrant crisis from a predominantly Democratic-voting city may, therefore, be due to differences in opinion on policy.
Despite having no fixed definition, a ‘sanctuary city’ is broadly understood to be a city in which police and local authorities will not prosecute, deny services to, or consent to requests from federal authorities to deport migrants who do not have a legal immigration status.
New York City first became a sanctuary city in the 1980’s under Mayor Ed Koch, with that status re-affirmed in more recent years during the Presidency of Donald Trump in response to his executive orders on immigration.
However, in the midst of the present crisis, 38% of voters, a plurality, oppose New York being a ‘sanctuary city,’ while 31% support this status. 43% of Biden 2020 voters support New York continuing to be a sanctuary city, while 63% of Trump 2020 voters oppose this status.
In addition, 56% of New Yorkers say yes, the Federal Government should be trying to prevent migrants from crossing the southern border of the United States, including 51% of those who voted for President Biden in 2020.
That said, when asked to choose between more federal funding to the city to accommodate migrants or stropping migrants from crossing the southern border, 47% of New Yorkers would prefer the Federal Government do the former, while a sizable 39% would prefer the latter policy option.
Predictably, 65% of 2020 Biden voters favour more federal funding, while the same number of Trump 2020 voters prefer preventing migrants from getting across the border.
Altogether, these figures serve to create a dangerous political situation for Democrats in New York and nationally.
Immigration is already a weak point for Mayor Adam’s administration. Amid positive net approval ratings for his performance on garbage and waste management (+9%) and K-12 education (+7%), Adams holds net negative ratings on all other issues, with immigration (-21%) his administration’s second-worst rated issue. Failure to solve the current crisis risks driving those numbers even further into the red.
Policing and crime (-10%) is another sore point for his administration. While 45% of New Yorkers agree that their respective neighbourhoods are safe, only 33% agree that New York as a whole is a safe place. A plurality (37%) instead disagree that New York is safe.
Furthermore, pluralities agree that both their own neighbourhood (35%) and New York (48%) are now less safe compared to five years ago, before Adams became Mayor (and the pandemic).
The on-going migrant crisis therefore risks exacerbating New Yorkers’ rising anxieties about crime, particularly in light of the news that NYPD overtime is to be cut due to citywide budget cuts needed to now accommodate the city’s migrant population.
For President Biden, facing a tough re-election bid in November next year, the situation in New York provides ammunition to his Republican opponents. A migrant crisis in America’s largest city risks derailing his re-election campaign.
For Biden, Adams, and their party, a solution to the on-going crisis must be found urgently.