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Poll shows Americans view of mosque debate

August 27, 2010

Majority Oppose Proposed Islamic Center and Mosque in NYC, But Support Mosque in Own Local Community
Majority say former site of World Trade Center is ‘Sacred Ground’
By Public Religion Research Institute

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As the debate over building a Muslim community center and mosque in lower Manhattan rages on, new research from Public Religion Research Institute shows that a majority of Americans (56%) say that the former site of the World Trade Center is ‘sacred ground,’ and 57% are opposed to allowing the proposed Islamic community center and mosque to be built two blocks away. However, three-in-four (76%) Americans—including majorities of religious groups across the spectrum—say they would support the building of a mosque in their own local community.

“Despite recent stories that seemed to indicate widespread opposition to mosques around the country, our survey shows Americans are making a distinction between the proposed Islamic community center and mosque in New York City and mosques in their local communities,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “While a majority oppose the building in Manhattan, three-in-four Americans say they would support Muslims in their local communities building a mosque.”

Highlights of the survey findings include:

• A solid majority (57%) of Americans are opposed to allowing Muslims in New York to build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Only about one-third (31%) favor it.

Strongest opposition: Religious groups most opposed include white evangelical Protestants (75%) and Catholics (63%). Republicans (85%), Americans age 65 or older (67%), and those with a high school education or less (64%) are also solidly opposed.

Strongest support: a plurality (46%) of Democrats, 43% of the religiously unaffiliated, and 42% of Americans who do not believe the former World Trade Center site is sacred support building the mosque.

• Despite this opposition, Americans are overwhelmingly supportive (76%) of allowing Muslims in their community to build an Islamic center or mosque provided they followed the same rules and regulations required of other religious groups. Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants are most opposed, with nearly 1-in-4 (24%) opposing the construction of a mosque or Islamic center in their own community, even if Muslims follow all the same rules and regulations required of other religious groups.

• A majority of Americans (56%) consider the World Trade Center site to be sacred. Nearly 4-in-10 (38%) disagree. Among religious groups, Catholics—a group known for having a strong sense of sacred space—are most likely to view the World Trade Center site as sacred (68%). Seven-in-ten Americans who believe the former World Trade Center site is sacred oppose building an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from the site.

• Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans are following the story very or somewhat closely in the media. There are significant differences by party identification, with nearly three-in-four (74%) Republicans following the story very or somewhat closely, compared to 66% of Independents and 61% of Democrats.

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey is conducted monthly by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted during August 20-22, 2010, among a national probability sample of 1,005 adults.

The survey memo and topline questionnaire can be found on the PRRI website here. The RNS story about the poll can be found here.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.

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