The new Marist Poll breaks down New Yorkers' opinions on the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been handling the public school system, and both supporters and opponents of Bloomberg can find plenty of ammunition.
Overall, 51 percent of registered voters approve of the way Bloomberg is running the schools compared to 41 percent who don't, and 8 percent who are unsure. Republicans are more inclined to support the mayor's handling of the schools than Democrats (53 percent to 47 percent). Queens voters gave him the highest marks (58 percent approve) while Bronx voters gave him the lowest (42 percent approve).
The poll gets more interesting when you look at how voters responded to this question: "Do you think the New York City public schools have gotten better, gotten worse, or stayed about the same since Michael Bloomberg became mayor?"
This time, 36 percent said the schools had improved, 20 percent said they'd gotten worse, 33 percent said they'd stayed the same, and 11 percent were unsure. Not a clear referendum at all. Among parents, the results were almost equally mixed with 40 percent saying the schools had gotten better, 22 percent saying they'd gotten worse, and 35 percent saying they'd stayed the same; 3 percent were unsure.
The poll also asked about the future of mayoral control of the schools. It asked: "Do you feel the responsibility for running the city's public schools should remain under Mayor Bloomberg or should responsibility be given to an appointed citywide Panel on Education Policy?"
Only 32 percent of voters supported the mayor while 60 percent said the power should go to a citywide panel. Eight percent were unsure. Among city parents, 27 percent supported the mayor while 67 percent said a citywide panel should run the schools (with 6 percent unsure).
Note how the question was phrased, though: it refers to "an appointed citywide Panel on Education Policy." The question didn't state that such a panel already exists, but is dominated by the mayor. Did the respondents know this when they answered? Or did they think, "hey, that sounds like a good idea"?
These are the things we just don't know when it comes to polls... which is why they often make for good snapshots but not always great closeups.
Also, for the record: this poll of 578 registered voters has a margin of error of 4 percent.