NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Yorkers are largely optimistic about the city's future as Bill de Blasio prepares to be sworn in as the next mayor on January 1, according to a poll released on Monday.
De Blasio, who will take over from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will be the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, won a resounding victory in November after campaigning to confront economic inequality, improve police and community relations and expand access to city services like pre-kindergarten.
Two-thirds of city voters say they are hopeful about de Blasio, while nearly six in 10 voters think he will change New York for the better, the poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed.
"Coming off a huge election victory, expectations are sky high for what Bill de Blasio will do for the city as mayor," Lee Miringoff, the poll's director, said.
But he warned: "If de Blasio is evaluated on whether or not he's able to close the income gap, that's going to be tough."
While de Blasio's favorable rating has slid since the campaign, more New Yorkers say his "political ideology" is the right one for the city, the poll found.
In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one, about half of Republicans say that de Blasio, who has an unabashedly liberal bent, will do more harm than good as mayor.
More than seven in 10 black voters and about two-thirds of Latinos think de Blasio will change the city for the better, but just under half of white voters share that view.
With just over a week to go before his inauguration, some political watchers have balked at the pace of de Blasio's appointments.
While he has made a number of key appointments -- including Bill Bratton, a veteran law enforcement official, as his next police commissioner -- other top jobs, including schools chancellor, remain unfilled.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg, who took office just months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and has led the city for three terms, will leave office with a 49 percent approval rating.
Half of voters say they will remember Bloomberg as one of New York's best mayors or as an above average mayor. Two in 10 rank him as below-average or one of the city's worst mayors, while three in 10 will remember him as average.
"He was not someone who aroused great passion -- for or against," Miringoff said of the outgoing mayor. "He was always more in the middle."
New Yorkers are less set in their views about the city's next first lady, Chirlane McCray, who will have an office in City Hall and who de Blasio has said will take an active role in his administration.
While about half of city voters have a favorable view of McCray, the other half have never heard of her or are unsure how to rate her.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Kevin Gray and Leslie Adler)