Just 40 percent of voters citywide have a favorable opinion of Rev. Al Sharpton, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll. But he wasn’t worried about those numbers.
“To be honest with you, I think that after the last six weeks of my name every day being connected to Rachel [Noerdlinger] and to Sandy Rubenstein, I thought it would be lower than that,” Mr. Sharpton told the Observer today in a brief telephone interview.
Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network blasted out a press release crowing about the poll — focusing not about his negative favorability rating, but instead on his being named the most important black leader in the city and his high marks among black voters.
And even though 45 percent of voters overall don’t like him, Mr. Sharpton pointed out by phone that his approval rating was mostly unchanged since the last poll in August, despite plenty of less-than-prime press.
His former spokeswoman, Ms. Noerdlinger, has been the subject of constant negative headlines for weeks. And Mr. Rubenstein, a prominent attorney, was accused or raping a woman after Mr. Sharpton’s birthday party.
“I think the real story here is that we’re talking about maybe a few points dropped from the last one, and this barrage of things that I had nothing to do with had my name attached to them,” Mr. Sharpton said.
While he performed poorly with white voters, some 69 percent of black voters view him positively, according to the poll. And when asked to name the city’s top black leader, 17 percent of those polled named Mr. Sharpton — more than President Barack Obama or Congressman Charles Rangel. Among black voters, 24 percent named him the most important leader.
That, Mr. Sharpton said, should quiet the critics who say Mayor Bill de Blasio should not be turning to him for advice.
“It makes all my critics have to explain — if his numbers are that high among blacks, if blacks say overwhelmingly that he’s the most important black leader in the city, then why are you questioning why the mayor and the president speak to him?” Mr. Sharpton asked.
Police unions in particular have slammed Mr. de Blasio’s relationship with Mr. Sharpton — characterizing him as anti-police and expressing anger after Mr. Sharpton was seated at a table with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton following the death of Eric Garner in NYPD custody. Critics have griped the move gave Mr. Sharpton too much credibility — but Mr. Sharpton said that credibility was what got him invited.
“They keep acting like the egg laid chicken, rather than the chicken laid the egg,” Mr. Sharpton said. “The reason they’re dealing with me is because of my standing.”
But even as the poll numbers showed a massive disparity in how white and black voters view Mr. Sharpton, he said he did not believe he was a divisive or polarizing figure.
“Because people from different communities have different views doesn’t make you polarizing,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I think people, obviously if I serve in a certain community they may know my work better, and my work is on behalf of them.”
In his written statement, Mr. Sharpton also made what seems to be a veiled reference to a story in today’s New York Times, which highlighted some $4.5 million Mr. Sharpton and his various groups owe in tax liens.
“We have made mistakes, but we have and will continue to correct those mistakes. Our work has far outweighed our mistakes and I am neither focused on the polls or the attacks,” he said in statement. “I am focused on supporting justice for the families in Ferguson and Staten Island.”