New York State

Poll: New Yorkers support Palestine protests – up to a point

The majority said they support peaceful demonstrations, but a majority also said campus protests went too far.

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images The NYPD arrested dozens on April 30 after students occupied Hamilton Hall at Columbia University. Almost half of those polled supported the police response.

A new Siena College poll found that a large majority of New Yorkers support peaceful protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza, but that a similarly large number supported the use of police to break up protests they felt had gone too far. 

According to the new poll, conducted May 13-15, 72% of the 1,191 respondents said that they support “students with passionate views peacefully demonstrating in support of those suffering in Gaza.” Within that group, a plurality of 46% said they strongly supported peaceful protests. The support held true across all demographics and geographies included in the Siena data, including a very narrow majority of 51% of Jewish New Yorkers.

But at the same time, 70% of those polled said that they believed that the protests and encampments on college campuses went too far and supported the police getting called in to break them up. That included a near majority of 49% who strongly agreed that it was right to call in the police. Once again, the majority agreement that school officials were right to call police held true among nearly all demographics. The lowest support was 49% of self-identified liberals, a plurality, who said they agreed that police should have been called.

The poll next posed the sentiment “I understand the frustration these demonstrators have with the war in Gaza continuing and their concern for the Gazan people. I too support an immediate ceasefire.” A slightly smaller majority – 64% – said they strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement. Jewish New Yorkers offered the least support. A majority of 57% said they disagreed with the statement, while only 34% agreed with the prospect of an immediate ceasefire. Self-identified conservatives were split, with 44% agreeing and 44% disagreeing.

A total of 61% of New Yorkers polled agreed with the final statement that asserted that the protests had crossed the line into antisemitism. “While they differ by degree, a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents agree with each of the four statements,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. “Interestingly, older voters are more likely to say the demonstrations crossed into anti-Semitism and it was OK to call in the police, while younger voters are more likely to support peacefully demonstrating and calling for a ceasefire.”

The new polling comes after pro-Palestine encampments popped up at college campuses across the state. The first and most high-profile encampment was at Columbia University, where students eventually briefly took over a building on campus. College officials called police to clear the protest and take back the building, but the massive police response drew scrutiny from some on the left. College officials at a number of other universities, including New York University and several public schools like SUNY New Paltz and City College in Manhattan also called police to break up protests and similarly faced criticism over the law enforcement response from some.

The new Siena poll also revealed support for the state Equal Rights Amendment, a state constitutional amendment recently knocked off the November ballot by a state judge. Of those polled, 64% said they support an amendment that would protect abortion rights, which is part of the Equal Rights Amendment. That includes a whopping 90% of self-described liberals, and 63% voters in the suburbs, where Democrats are hoping to use abortion as an issue to help them win several swing congressional districts. Pro-amendment groups have also focused heavily on the abortion aspect.

However, another aspect of the Equal Rights Amendment had less support. Only a 48% plurality said that they support a constitutional amendment that would protect transgender rights. Conservatives have focused on the gender and gender expression protections in the amendment in their opposition, particularly the idea of protecting women’s sports from trans female athletes. But 59% of New Yorkers polled said they would still vote for an Equal Rights Amendment that included both abortion and trans rights, including 53% in the suburbs.