Monroe County residents are willing to embrace initiatives to reduce the impact of racism, according to a new Siena College Research Institute poll. Residents are more likely to acknowledge racism than they were a decade ago.
“Monroe County residents increasingly recognize the impact of discrimination on their neighbors,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. “The poll shows that they are now more aware and, possibly as a result, support efforts to redress historic inequities.”
Four in five Monroe County residents, or 81 percent, aged 18 to 34, believe minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, experience racial or ethnic discrimination. Seventy-two percent of all poll respondents agree, compared with 63 percent in 2012.
These results are part of a fourth triennial survey commissioned by the Community Foundation and the Democrat and Chronicle. RACF initiated the poll series in 2012 after ACT Rochester, a Community Foundation affiliate, documented severe racial and ethnic disparities that were holding back the community’s progress, officials say.
Here are some key findings from the December 2021 poll:
■ Seven in 10 respondents (71 percent) said racial or ethnic discrimination is a very significant (28 percent) or somewhat significant (43 percent) problem in Monroe County. In 2012, less than half agreed with that statement.
■ Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics overwhelmingly agree (85 percent, 89 percent, and 79 percent, respectively) that African Americans are the minority group “most often discriminated against in Monroe County.”
■ Nearly half of Black (45 percent) and over a third of Hispanic (35 percent) respondents said they could think of an occasion in the last few months when they were treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, or some other personal characteristic. Only 15 percent of whites reported the same.
■ Respondents who reported personal discrimination were most likely to say it happened at work (40 percent) or in a store (36 percent, down from 46 percent in 2018).
Fifty-two percent of poll respondents believe there is a widening gap between Black and white people in their standard of living, compared with 47 percent in the 2018 poll. Respondents who felt the gap had narrowed fell from 45 percent three years ago to 31 percent in the latest survey.
At least three-quarters of those who were surveyed noted that they would support efforts to help mitigate the impact of racism. These include establishing new schools with specialized curricula that would be open to both suburban and urban students (75 percent), a concept promoted by the Great Schools for All initiative; a plan to create more affordable housing in the suburbs (76 percent); and a jobs program that would encourage employers to hire those in poverty (82 percent). Seventy-six percent were in favor of ensuring local minority-owned businesses have access to more loans.
A majority of survey respondents backed directing funds to support neighborhoods that have been adversely affected by discriminatory policies, increasing instruction on the history of discrimination, and creating diverse neighborhoods in the county. The North Star Coalition and the PathStone Foundation are working on the first two proposals.
Fifty-one percent of survey participants strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement: “Some have said that one reason many people, especially many people of color, cannot break free from poverty is that the deck is stacked against them, that is, there are public policies, and practices in the marketplace, that advantage white people and disadvantage people of color.” The “strongly agree” group has risen from 16 percent to 25 percent since 2015.
These findings will inform RACF’s efforts to stimulate a more equitable community, officials say.
The Siena poll, conducted with 707 Monroe County residents, has a margin of error of +/-4.7 percent. Thirty-five percent of respondents lived city of Rochester, reflecting the county population. Respondents were 69 percent white, 13 percent African American/Black, and 8 percent Hispanic/Latino.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. Data visualization by Jacob Schermerhorn.
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