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Siena Poll Gauges Race Relations, Workplace Sexual Harassment

MLK Memorial
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
MLK Memorial, Lincoln Park, Albany

A new Siena Research Institute poll released on this Martin Luther King Day surveyed New Yorkers on race relations, discrimination and sexual harassment. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas spoke with pollster Steve Greenberg.

When it comes to race relations, the survey indicates a slight uptick of positive opinion.    "This is a question that Siena has asked numerous times over the years on Martin Luther King Day. And what we find right now is 39 percent of New Yorkers say that race relations in the state are excellent or good, mostly good... 4 percent say excellent, 35 percent say good. 58 percent, however, say that race relations are only fair, 43 percent, or poor, another 15 percent. Now it's up from the last time Siena asked, which was three years ago, 2015, when 31 percent had positive, 66 percent said negative, but we're really down significantly still from where we were earlier in the decade. As recently as 2013, 54 percent of New Yorkers thought race relations were excellent or good, compared to 46 percent who thought they were fair or poor."

According to the numbers, was there a large disparity between the races?    "24 percent. Only a quarter, just under a quarter of black voters say that race relations in the state are excellent or good, compared to 40 percent of white voters who say that.

When we asked voters generally 'do they think that minorities experience racial or ethnic discrimination in New York,' more than two-thirds say 'yes they do,' 68 percent of New Yorkers say that, including 63 percent of white voters, 78 percent of Latinos and 88 percent of black voters. But then when we said to voters 'how about you personally, have you personally been treated unfairly within the last year based on your race, your ethnicity, your gender or your sexual orientation, and I think this is a staggering number. 29 percent of New Yorkers say 'yes,' that within the last year they've been treated unfairly based on who they are. 47 percent, nearly half of black voters say that. A quarter of Latinos, a quarter of whites. More than a third of women say that they have been treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. That's a very large number."

The poll finds the majority of New Yorkers quite opinionated when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.   "Right now 74 percent, nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers say that sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem. 29 percent say it's  a very significant problem. And we don't see a great deal of difference. 75 percent from New York City, 76 percent from the downstate suburbs. 73 percent of upstate. There's not even a huge gender gap, and I think that's an encouraging sign. 78 percent of women say it's a significant problem, 71 percent of men say it. We then went on to ask voters 'are you aware of sexual harassment at a workplace where you have worked?' More than a third, 36 percent of New Yorkers say that they are aware of such incidents taking place at their workplace. And again, no difference rally by geography: 33 percent of New York City voters, 37 percent of downstate suburban voters, 37 percent of upstate voters say that they are aware of this happening. And finally we asked voters 'have you yourself been the victim of a sexual harassment?' And yes, 25 percent, a staggering number, 25 percent of all New Yorkers saying that they have been the victim of sexual harassment at the workplace. 36 percent of women, more than a third of all women in New York say that they have been victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace. So, clearly, a lot of work for New York to be doing, and certainly the whole country to be doing on the issue of sexual harassment."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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