ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero, and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday.
The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it. That compares with 64 percent opposed and 28 percent in favor 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 Sept. 11 attacks.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll released last week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan, while 29 percent approved.
In a new question, the latest poll found that many New Yorkers believe the project is protected by the Constitution, even if they oppose the plan.
Nearly two-thirds of voters, 64 percent, say the developers have a constitutional right to build the mosque. Twenty-eight percent 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 percent 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 percent say it will have some effect, while about 40 percent of voters say it won’t matter.
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 GOP 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 percent — oppose building the mosque near ground zero. Cuomo has only a narrow lead over Lazio among those voters.
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.
As the Sept. 14 Republican primary draws near, Lazio’s lead over Paladino, who has tea party activists among his supporters, is shrinking among Republicans. The lead is down to 13 points at 43 percent versus Paladino’s 30 percent, with 27 percent undecided. That compares with Lazio’s 20-point lead over Paladino in July, although the margin of error is greater when only Republicans were questioned, reflecting the smaller sample.
The Siena telephone poll questioned 788 registered voters Aug. 9 through Monday. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)