Poll Finds New Yorkers Split Down the Middle Over Islamic Cultural Center

A Quinnipiac University poll finds that slightly over half, 54 percent, of New Yorkers surveyed think the Islamic cultural center organizers have the constitutional right to construct the center two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Pollster Mickey Carroll says nearly the same number, 53 percent, say they should not be permitted to build at all.

“There’s almost a tug of war," Carroll says.

But Carroll says there does seem to be a consensus about how to quell the controversy over the center, known as Park51. About 71 percent of the people polled think the mosque organizers should voluntarily move the site somewhere else.

Gov. David Paterson, speaking at an event in New York City, echoes the sentiments expressed in the poll, saying that even though he strongly believes in the right to build under the constitutional right to freedom of religion, he appeals to the Islamic organizers to “perhaps think about another area that might be suitable, just to diminish the tensions.”

Paterson, who has tried to be a mediator, compared the heated political rhetoric to Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and said earlier this week that he thinks some of the mosque opponents are simply prejudiced.

“Some are absolutely bigoted, there’s just no doubt about it,” Paterson says.

But the governor says some opponents do have legitimate worries, and he says people who live and work in that neighborhood have already been subjected to a lot of stress.

The poll also asked whether Attorney General Andrew Cuomo should investigate the finances of the mosque, and 71 percent say he should.

The organizers of the cultural center have not yet begun raising money for the project.