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Siena Poll: white and Black New Yorkers divided over policing

More New Yorkers oppose defunding the police than support the idea, though their views vary widely based on race and political party, according to the results of a statewide poll by the Siena College Research Institute.

The institute surveyed 806 New Yorkers and found that 60 percent of the respondents opposed defunding the police while 30 percent supported doing so. The results also showed that 54 percent of Black respondents supported defunding police departments, compared to 24 percent of white respondents, and that 40 percent of Democrats supported defunding while only 19 percent of Republicans did.

Locally, Black Lives Matter activists called on City Hall to slash the Rochester Police Department’s funding by 50 percent for the 2020-21 budget. The approved budget cuts police funding by about 4 percent.

Of the Siena poll’s respondents, 65 percent were white, 15 percent were Black, and 11 percent were Latino. Roughly three-quarters of the participants had incomes over $50,000, and 38 percent had incomes exceeding $100,000.

The poll asked participants about a variety of topics, such as their opinions on key elected leaders and on the pace of reopening from pandemic-related shutdowns. But many of the questions tied into the nation-wide uprisings against police brutality as well as systemic and structural racism, which were ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

On many issues related to police reform, there was resounding support from the poll participants. For example, 84 percent of respondents supported creating a national database of police misconduct, 82 percent believed that mental health professionals should respond alongside police on some calls, and 81 percent supported a federal ban on chokeholds.

In all of those metrics, Black respondents offered the most support. Whites, meanwhile, were substantially less supportive of radical changes to the police. For example, 64 percent of Black respondents supported demilitarizing the police, compared to 42 percent of whites.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the poll results also showed that respondents basic feelings toward police varied by skin color. According to the survey, 51 percent of white New Yorkers feel safer when a cop is around, while just 13 percent feel less secure. For Black New Yorkers, it’s the opposite—13 percent feel more secure, while 46 percent feel less secure.

“It is certainly worth noting when one in five New Yorkers – including nearly half of Black New Yorkers – feels less secure simply from seeing one of New York’s Finest or another police officer,” said pollster Steven Greenberg, in a statement.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at