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On MLK Day, new Siena College poll rates attitudes on race

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A new Siena College poll finds a majority of New Yorkers believe the state of race relations is poor.

The annual survey found New Yorkers’ overall view of race relations changed little in a year.

72% of New Yorkers still say people of color face racial discrimination. But 52% of those polled say minority New Yorkers have the same opportunities to succeed as white New Yorkers, while 41% disagree.

Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg says there are broad differences when responses are broken down by political party affiliation, race and gender.

"Democrats by a 54 to 39% margin, say that minorities don't have the same opportunities to succeed as white New Yorkers," Greenberg said "however, 71% of Republicans and 59% of independents say they do. When we look at it by race 68% of white voters and 55% of Latino voters say that minorities do have the same opportunities to succeed, compared to 71% of Black voters who say they do not. Men, by a nearly two-to-one margin, 60% to 35%, say minorities do I have the same opportunities as white. Women, equally divided 46% to 46%."

Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, questions the numbers, cautioning the poll reflects the opinions of registered voters, perhaps not including those most directly impacted by discrimination and poverty.

"52% say that Blacks and whites have the same opportunities," said Green. "Yet, we see that there's a sizable majority, that say that discrimination still exists. So how do you, you know, how do you reconcile those two things? And I think, one is, we have to recognize that there is, you know, racism and discrimination that would, in turn suggest the difference in opportunity. So on one hand, you're saying that people are saying that they have the same opportunities, but then they're saying that discrimination still exists."

Activist Lukee Forbes says the poll holds up a mirror to society: it shows us exactly how divided we are.

"I wasn't surprised to see that 52% of the voters believe that most African Americans or minorities have the same opportunities as whites," said Forbes. "And I'm not surprised at all. Because again, as an activist in the community, I've been stressing the fact that racism is still present, it is something that still exists. And it's something that also happens subconsciously. So individuals in privilege don't even realize that they have privilege."

Greenberg notes that 36% of those surveyed think race relations in New York are either excellent or good. 60% say fair or poor.

"Those numbers are actually, even though they're underwater, are up a little bit from last year when it was 31 positive 64 negative. " Greenberg said "Two-thirds of New Yorkers continue to believe that minorities, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, experienced discrimination in New York stage and that is true across the board. 92% of black voters 87% of Latinos and 67% of white voters say that minorities experience discrimination and two-thirds of New Yorkers continue to believe that religious minorities such as Jews and Muslims and others experience discrimination.”

By a 71-20 percent margin, voters say religious minorities – including Jews, Muslims and others – who live in New York experience discrimination based on their religious affiliation, compared to 69-22 percent last year.

Here's a link to the poll.

The survey of 806 New York registered voters was
conducted January 9-13, 2022. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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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