eric garner
The downtown New York skyline, including One World Trade Center, is seen in the background as demonstrators, demanding justice for Eric Garner, move to Brooklyn from Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge Dec. 4, 2014. Reuters

A new poll showed nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers said a Staten Island grand jury should have indicted New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo over the death of Eric Garner and that the federal government should bring civil-rights charges against the officer. The New York Times/Siena College poll also found that two-thirds of New York adults said people of color are treated unfairly by the city’s criminal-justice system.

Garner was killed as several NYPD officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a Staten Island store on July 17. The New York medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by a choke hold. Despite the entire incident being captured on video, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo this month.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg discovered a strong racial divide within the polling numbers. Greenberg found that among 760 New York residents polled, 85 percent of blacks, 73 percent of Latinos and 50 percent of whites said the grand jury should have charged Pantaleo. Likewise, 86 percent of blacks and 76 percent of Latinos said federal charges should be brought against the officer, while white adults are evenly divided on the issue at 42 percent for and opposed to federal intervention.

Meanwhile, the poll showed 83 percent of blacks, 71 percent of Latinos and 45 percent of whites say people of color are treated unfairly by New York’s criminal-justice system. The poll’s margin of error for residents is 3.6 percentage points.

Greenberg also said the poll indicated a strong partisan divide on the issues. Of the 621 respondents in the poll who were registered voters in New York, more than two-thirds of Democrats said the grand jury should have returned an indictment, federal charges should be brought and people of color are treated unfairly by the criminal-justice system. In contrast, only 47 percent of Republicans said the grand jury should have returned an indictment, while most Republicans polled felt the federal government should not bring charges and that people of color in New York are treated fairly by the criminal-justice system. In terms of registered voters, the poll’s margin of error is 3.9 percentage points.

“Independents are much closer to Democrats on these issues than they are to Republicans,” Greenberg said.

Although a majority of New Yorkers gave New York Mayor Bill de Blasio a thumbs-up, by a margin of 52 percent to 32 percent, most also said the city is on the wrong track. In fact, 52 percent of New Yorkers are pessimistic about the city’s direction, which contrasts with the figures for April, when a majority of them felt the city was headed in the right direction. The falloff included voters from every party, according to the phone poll conducted Dec. 4-10.