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Siena Poll: New Yorkers Troubled By Systemic Racism

Albany NY saw protests and civil unrest in the wake of the George Floyd killing.
WAMC photos by Jackie Orchard
Albany NY saw protests and civil unrest in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

A month after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, a Siena College poll finds New Yorkers are troubled by systemic racism and police behavior. But  they don’t support calls to defund the police.

By a 60-35 percent margin, New Yorkers say the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody is part of a broader pattern of excessive police violence against Black people. The poll released Tuesday also found 51 percent of New Yorkers say systemic racism is a very serious problem.

Pollster Steve Greenberg says 91% of Black New Yorkers, 64% of Latino voters and 53% of white voters say the killings represent a pattern of excessive force.

" 51% of New Yorkers say that systemic racism in this country is a very serious problem. Another 30 percent say it is a somewhat serious problem. You 81% of New Yorkers saying that systemic racism in this country is either a very or somewhat serious problem, including two-thirds of every race, party, region and age grouping in New York."

When Seeing Police Officer, 51% of White NYers Feel More Secure & 13% Less Secure; However, 46% of Black NYers Feel Less Secure & 13% More Secure

For more than a year, Albany Center For Law and Justice Executive Director Alice Green has been sounding the alarm about systemic racism.

"We're just delighted to see the results of this poll. The Center For Law And Justice has tried to impress upon the people in our area the serious problem that we have in terms of systemic racism. We've done reports, we have worked with groups in our community. We've tried to impress upon public officials that that's what we need to be looking at, because systemic racism has been a part of our institution since the period of enslavement. And I think now people are beginning to understand what that means. That we can't just make changes that don't address that issue. That we have to look to understand what it looks like and the implications it has for our society."

Greenberg notes the survey determined that by a 60-29 percent margin, two to one, voters say that people of color are treated unfairly by New York's criminal justice system. Five years ago when Siena asked the question, it was 52% unfairly, 40% fairly.

"By a 60 to 36% margin New Yorkers support the demonstrations that have been taking place recently because they are mostly peaceful. 36% opposed the demonstrations because they say that they have become, too many, have become too violent."

Greenberg adds 82% of survey respondents said recent laws passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo including banning chokeholds, releasing records of police brutality and creating a special prosecutor unit within the Attorney General's office, were good for New York.

"We asked New Yorkers when you see a police officer, does it make you feel more secure, less secure, or have no effect on how you feel? Well, overall, 42% of New Yorkers say a single police officer makes them feel more secure, compared to 20% who feel less secure and 35% who say it makes no difference. But this is not the whole story. Look at it by race. When we asked white vote voters what happens when they see a police officer, 51% say they feel more secure, only 13 percent say less secure. For Black voters, for black New Yorkers only 13% feel more secure when they see a police officer, 46% feel less secure. Mirror images. Blacks and whites on seeing a police officer."

Again, Green:

"I think this report and all the things that are happening now in the country, where people are beginning to wake up and see that we have a serious problem, and I think it's coming from all segments of our population right now, that systemic racism is a serious problem in this country and we've gotta address it."

The survey also found 66% of New Yorkers support the Black Lives Matter movement while 26% have an unfavorable view. 70% have a favorable view of their local police departments while 22% have an unfavorable view. New Yorkers oppose defunding the police, 57 to 37%.

Press Release    Crosstabs

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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