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52 Percent of NYC Voters Say Confederate Monuments Should Stay, Poll Finds

By Katie Honan | September 6, 2017 3:16pm
 A Robert E. Lee memorial mounted to a maple tree in the church's yard for more than 100 years was removed.
A Robert E. Lee memorial mounted to a maple tree in the church's yard for more than 100 years was removed.
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DNAinfo/Caroline Spivack

NEW YORK CITY — A very slim majority of New York City voters said they think Confederate statues and monuments should stay up around the country, according to a Siena College Poll released Tuesday.

The Siena poll found 52 percent of New York City voters believe Confederate monuments should be left alone, while 41 percent said they should be removed and 7 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 26 through Aug. 30, days after some people also started calling for the removal of other monument, such as the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle. Siena's poll takers contacted registered voters by cell phone and landlines throughout the state, including 331 people in New York City.

The poll asked:

"Which of the following two views is closer to yours as you consider the national debate taking place about the removal of Confederate statues or memorials?"

— "They should be removed. While historic, they celebrate people that rebelled against the USA and for some, they represent slavery and segregation."

— "They should stay up. Like Washington, Jefferson and Columbus, they are part of our country's history and for some, they are a source of pride and a celebration of our culture."

There were major differences of opinion between upstate and downstate voters, as well as racial differences, with an overwhelming majority of voters polled living in upstate counties believing the statues should remain.

​"A small majority of New York City voters, a larger majority of downstate suburbanites and a huge majority of upstaters say these statues and memorials should remain​," Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg​ said in a press release announcing the results.

"While black voters say take them down by a relatively narrow 52-40 percent, white and Latino voters say better than two-to-one to keep them up.” Statewide, of those surveyed, 22 percent were ages 18 to 34; 37 percent were ages 35 to 54; and 37 percent were 55 and older.

In August, Mayor de Blasio ordered a 90-day review of the city's own monuments and statues in response to violent protests in Virginia surrounding the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

It also came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered statues of Lee and Stonewall Jackson — another Confederate general — be removed from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College. 

memorial to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was first mounted to a tree outside St. Johns Episcopal Church near Fort Hamilton more than 100 years ago was also removed.

READ MORE: Proposal Calls For Columbus Circle Zones: 'Conquest, Slavery, Immigration'

A spokesman for the mayor said the city will consider "monument alteration," which is an option instead of removing or keeping statues.

They haven't publicly announced yet who will be on the commission to decide what to do with controversial statues, street signs and monuments — but mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips said it "will be a cross section of germane policy experts and leaders from community, civic and art organizations."

The Siena Poll asked New Yorkers' opinions on several other topics, including views about the president. It found President Donald Trump's ratings in New York state are the lowest they've been since he was sworn in as president — with 85 percent giving him an 'F' grade, data shows.