De Blasio Compares Pre-K Poll Question to ‘Bowl of Free Candy’

Bill de Blasio and labor leaders pressing the mayor's signature pre-k plan.

Bill de Blasio and labor leaders pressing the mayor’s signature pre-k plan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is not impressed with a new Quinnipiac poll out today, which showed that voters prefer Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to fund universal pre-K using existing state funds over the mayor’s signature plan to raise the money with a new tax on the rich.

“With all due respect to the Quinnipiac poll, the way they phrased this question was the equivalent of asking, ‘Would you like a bowl of free candy?’ To which most people would say, ‘Yes,’” said the mayor during a brief break from fiscal questions at his first budget briefing.

“And so the question as phrased, ‘Would you like all of this to happen without an increase in taxes?’ Well anyone in their right mind would say, in a perfect world, ‘Yes.’ But the fact is you have to pay for it. And we’ve been honest,” he said.

The exact wording of the question went as follows: “to pay for pre-K for all New York State children without raising taxes by using existing state funds. Governor Andrew Cuomo wants New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio wants to pay for pre-K for New York City children by raising New York City income taxes on households earning more than $500,000 saying that if state funding gets cut, pre-K for New York City children will still be funded. Do you think that New York City should raise these taxes to fund New York City pre-K or do you think that New York State should fund statewide pre-K without raising taxes?”

After the criticism, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said it defended its question wording.

“Quinnipiac University always provides the complete wording of every question in its public opinion polls. In more than 20 years, no one has challenged the fairness of a question,” said Maurice Carroll, the poll’s director, in a statement. “Quinnipiac University stands behind its record of fairness and accuracy.”

Mr. de Blasio went on to argue that his plan remains deeply popular across the city and state–despite today’s numbers.

“Let me offer why I believe there’s overwhelming support,” he said. “First of all, we had an election in New York City in which this was the centerpiece item of my platform. The results are well documented. Secondly, we’ve seen a number of public opinion polls which show tremendous support in this city for this plan and statewide for the plan.”

“It’s time for progressives to be fiscally responsible and to dispel any misimpression,” he added, “that the progressive agenda doesn’t go along with fiscal responsibility.