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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, poll says New Yorkers see much room for improvement in race relations

Jan 20, 2020

Credit freeimages.com/Alix Morse

As New Yorkers commemorate the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., only a third of them say race relations are positive across the state.

Thirty-five percent of those who responded to a Siena College poll said they have been treated unfairly in the past year because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

"That means that more than 4 million New Yorkers would say that they have been treated unfairly because of who they are or what they look like in the last year," explained pollster Steve Greenberg. "As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, that's a sad legacy to be talking about, unfortunately."

In Siena's 2019 poll, 30 percent of New Yorkers said they had been the victim of discrimination within the last year.  The increase may be, at least in part, to the fact that Siena added the "religion" category when they asked the question this time.

"And given what's going on around the country and in New York in the last several months, couple of years, in terms of religious attacks against Jewish people, against synagogues, and against mosques and Arabs and Muslim people, we thought it was important to add religion and that's what we did this year," Greenberg said.

He said it's not only minority voters who view race relations in New York negatively. A majority of people across races, political parties, and regions of the state agree that race relations are not good.

Another finding from the poll: 45 percent of women and 14 percent of men living in New York state say they have been a victim of sexual harassment at some time in their lives.