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Poll: NYers see systemic racism in U.S., need to reform police relations

Anti-police protesters occupying City Hall Park in Manhattan

Anti-police protesters occupying City Hall Park in Manhattan on Thursday, June 25, 2020, are demanding defunding of the New York City Police Department. Credit: Jeff Bachner

ALBANY — Most New Yorkers acknowledge systemic racism in the country and agree that police must improve interactions with communities of color, but are divided on how to deal with the problems, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Siena College Poll found 81% of voters surveyed felt systematic racism in the United States is a very or somewhat serious problem.

When seeing a police officer, 51% of white New Yorkers felt more secure, while 13% felt less secure; but 46% of African Americans felt less secure seeing a police officer and only 13% felt more secure.

That divide was clear on the idea of “defunding police.” The movement supported by protesters calls for spending less on traditional police methods, staffing, weaponry and other resources. Instead, spending would be redirected more to social services to try to head off criminal activity before it starts and to better fund low-income and predominantly racial minority neighborhoods.

Overall, 60% opposed defunding police, with a breakdown of 47% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans opposing defunding of police. But while 54% of African Americans support defunding police, 67% of whites oppose it. Fifty percent of Latinos oppose it, too.

“At least two-thirds of Democrats, Blacks, Latinos, voters under 35 and New York City voters say systemic racism is a very serious problem,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena poll. “Fewer than 30 percent any demographic group says that systemic racism is not a very serious problem or not at all a serious problem, except for self-identified conservatives, of whom 43% say it is not a serious problem.”

“Sixty percent say people of color are not treated fairly by the criminal justice system in New York, with only a majority of Republicans and conservatives saying people of color are treated fairly,” Greenberg said. “Stunningly, though not necessarily surprisingly, 92 percent of Blacks and 72 percent of Latinos say people of color are treated unfairly.”

As for the nationwide and statewide protests following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, 60% of New Yorkers support the protesters, with the strongest support by Democrats and African Americans. The poll showed 36% opposed the protests, including most Republicans and conservatives.

The poll questioned 806 voters from June 23 to Thursday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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