ALBANY, N.Y. — A majority of New York state voters remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural centre near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City, and the issue will be a factor for many in November elections, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The Siena College poll showed 63 per cent of the state’s voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 per cent supporting it. That compares with 64 per cent opposed and 28 per cent in favour two weeks earlier, results that are within the polls’ sampling margins.
Democrats nationwide, including President Barack Obama, have defended the proposal as protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. Many Republicans have called it an affront to the memory of those killed in the 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll released last week found that nearly 70 per cent of Americans opposed the mosque plan, while 29 per cent approved.
In a new question, the latest poll found that many in the state believe the project is protected by the Constitution, even if they oppose the plan.
Nearly two-thirds of voters, 64 per cent, say the developers have a constitutional right to build the mosque. Twenty-eight per cent say they do not.
Among those who oppose building the mosque, about half agree that developers have the constitutional right to build it. Twenty-eight per cent of mosque opponents say they do not have that right.
Nearly a quarter of voters questioned said the issue will have a major effect on which candidate for governor they support. Thirty-seven per cent say it will have some effect, while about 40 per cent of voters say it won’t matter.
The state at large is more conservative than heavily Democratic New York City.
The poll showed Republican Carl Paladino, who has taken the hardest line against the project among the candidates, is continuing to gain on Rick Lazio heading into the Sept. 14 Republican primary and also gaining on Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Still, Cuomo continues to have twice the support of either Lazio or Paladino.
Of those who see the issue as a major factor in their vote, almost all — 92 per cent — oppose building the mosque near the attack site referred to as “ground zero.”
Cuomo has defended the project, saying it is protected by the Constitution. Lazio wants an investigation into who will fund the $100 million project. Paladino said it is akin to a Japanese war memorial at Pearl Harbor, the site of the 1941 attack that brought the United States into World War II.
The telephone poll questioned 788 registered New York state voters Aug. 9 through Monday. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.