New York voters oppose by more than 2-to-1 a plan to build a mosque and Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan, according to a Siena College Research Institute survey.
While 64 percent of voters said developers of the mosque have a constitutional right to build, only 27 percent supported putting the project two blocks from the World Trade Center site, with 63 percent opposed, according to the poll.
“A majority of every demographic group -- by party, religion, age, gender, political philosophy -- agrees there is a constitutional right to proceed” with the project, said Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for the institute, in a press release.
The mosque has become a national political issue, with some Republicans and others opposing the plan as insensitive while some Democrats defend it as an example of the country’s religious freedom. President Barack Obama said last week that Muslims have a right to practice their religion and build a place of worship, then said he wasn’t commenting on the wisdom of putting the mosque so close to the site of the 2001 attacks.
Voter sentiment on the mosque hasn’t hurt the popularity of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who hasn’t opposed the plan. Cuomo was favored by 60 percent of voters compared with 27 percent if the Republican nominee is Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino and 26 percent if it is Rick Lazio, a former member of Congress from Long Island.
“This country is about religious freedom,” Cuomo said at a press conference in July. He said he is unaware of any criminality associated with developers of the mosque. Lazio and Paladino have said the mosque shouldn’t be allowed on the Park Place site in lower Manhattan, which has been approved by a community board and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
“This is not an issue of religion, but one of safety and security through transparency,” Lazio said in a statement on his website. He called for an investigation into the funding of the mosque’s developer, the Cordoba Initiative, a state-registered charity.
The issue of the mosque would have a “major effect” on the choice for governor among 22 percent of voters, “some effect” among 37 percent, and “no effect at all” among 39 percent, according to the survey. Three-quarters of the respondents said they were following news on the issue closely or very closely.
Among Republicans, 30 percent said they would vote for Paladino in the Sept. 14 primary, with 43 percent favoring Lazio. Paladino has said he may run on another party line if he loses his primary bid.
The Research Institute, a part of Loudonville, New York-based Siena College, said the telephone survey of 788 registered voters earlier this month had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.