Poll: Fresno’s north-south divide is real and rooted in racism, income inequality

Fresnans who responded to a poll in a Bee story earlier this month pinned the city’s divide on systemic racism and income inequality.

The Poll Town results show the nearly 300 respondents overwhelmingly agree there is a divide in Fresno. There was about an even split of respondents who live on either side of Shaw Avenue and between men and women respondents. There also was a healthy number of responses from younger people under 44 who live south of Shaw.

“Social and economic diversity on both sides of Shaw” was the main reason for those who don’t see there is a divide in Fresno.

Fresno Bee reporter Brianna Calix ERIC PAUL ZAMORA
transparency work New Co/Lab Spaceship Media

Nearly 80 people completed a separate survey expressing interest in the dialogue process and sharing thoughts about the divide.

Although some of the responses were predictable and stereotypical, painting neighborhoods in sweeping pejorative terms, many were refreshing and even hilarious. (Fresnans clearly have strong opinions on Mexican food.)

The questions posed were simple: What do you think of people living on the other side of Shaw? What do you think they think about you? What do you want them to know about your neighborhood? What do you want to know about them?

The survey also included some questions about news habits and The Bee.

Most respondents agreed Shaw Avenue is the dividing line in the city, but many believe the line is moving further north to Herndon Avenue, a theory previously given merit by former mayor Ashley Swearengin.

More than one respondent joked there’s no good authentic Mexican food north of Shaw Avenue.

Many people living south of Shaw described north Fresnans similarly to Clovis residents: an example of white flight, affluent, disconnected, conservative, suburban.

And Fresno neighborhoods south of Shaw were described very differently: diverse, crime, poverty, neglected, dirty.

See what I mean about stereotypes?

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But lots of the responses said people living north and south of Shaw were similar in that all were hardworking people just trying to raise their families.

Multiple north Fresno residents expressed a willingness and enthusiasm about uplifting neighborhoods south of Shaw. South Fresno residents urged north Fresno residents to acknowledge the disparity among communities with calls to action. It appeared many residents actually wanted the same things.

From here, The Bee will guide a conversation between small groups of residents on areas such as public safety, education and financial security.

Which brings us to our next poll. The results will be published next week.

Many crimes don’t discriminate. So what is crime like in your neighborhood? Does it fit the city’s stereotypes?

The Bee will discuss this using the dialogue method in small groups.

If the city’s divide or any of these topics interest you, stay tuned. The Bee will continue providing updates on this project as it moves forward. And, we’ll invite you to hear the outcome at the end of October in a forum.

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix