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Siena poll: Most think there's still racial discrimination

Siena poll: Most think there's still racial discrimination

Across-the-board feeling that discrimination continues
Siena poll: Most think there's still racial discrimination
Union College students in the MLK Day Unity March Monday
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

LOUDONVILLE -- As the state and nation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, a new poll found that most New Yorkers still think racial discrimination is widespread.

In fact, the number of people who think racial relations are positive has dropped in its annual poll nearly every year since a 2010 poll, according to the Siena Research Institute.

In the survey released Monday, only one-third of those polled -- all adult registered voters -- thought that race relations are excellent (5 percent) or good (28 percent).  Beyond that, 42 percent thought race relations were fair, and 22 percent described them as poor.

In polling in 2010, a slim majority of New Yorkers -- 51 percent -- thought race relations were positive. But the decade since then has seen the rise nationally of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to incidents including the 2014 death of a Staten Island man being arrested on a minor charge. Meanwhile there has been a rise in white supremacist activity. The state of New York has also become more racially and religiously diverse.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said racial and ethnic minorities living in New York experience discrimination. In a new question this year, which was added after a series of recent anti-Semitic incidents in the state, 78 percent said religious minorities face discrimination.

"New Yorkers' views on race relations today are nearly as negative as they have ever been over the last dozen years," said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. "Since 2008, only 2015 saw New Yorkers more negative about race relations in the state."

The poll results recognize the reality that race relations have gotten worse, said Ang Morris, executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission.

"Today we’re celebrating Dr. King's day, and he spoke on human rights and against Jim Crow laws and all those issues he spoke about are still issues, and they have gotten worse," Morris said.

She said there's increased awareness of the "institutional racism" that contributes to disparities between racial groups in areas like education, housing, job opportunities, and criminal justice, at the national, state and local levels. "We have to continue to have these uncomfortable and hard conversations about race," Morris said.

The negative views on the state of race relations were found among all groups. Greenberg said at least 60 percent of whites, blacks, Latinos, upstaters and downstaters, liberals, moderates and conservatives all view race relations negatively.

By race, 71 percent of whites believe discrimination continues, as do 81 percent of Latinos, and 91 percent of blacks. All groups believe religious minorities face discrimination, and while Democrats are more likely to say discrimination exists than are Republicans, majorities of Republicans in the state also think there is racial and religious discrimination.

Thirty-five percent of those polled believe they had faced discrimination, up from 30 percent in a 2019 poll. "Thirty percent of white voters say they were treated unfairly based on discrimination, compared to 39 percent of Latinos and 61 percent of blacks," Greenberg said.

On a separate question, the poll found that three-quarters of women and 69 percent of men agree that sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem.

The poll of 814 registered voters was conducted Jan. 11-16, and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.1 points.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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