December 3, 2016
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NY Latinos And The Mosque Controversy

 National Institute for Latino Policy, News Report, Angelo Falcón

NEW YORK - As debate over the New York City Mosque and Islamic community center rages on, the views of the Latino community are not well known on this issue. Recently the New York Times conducted a pretty comprehensive poll on this topic of those in the epicenter of this controversy, New Yorkers, and they were nice enough to provide us with their unpublished findings for Latinos. We wanted to find out if Latinos fell in between blacks and whites on this issue as they do on many others, or if they were closer to black or white views.

The 
New York Times Poll interviewed a total of 892 New Yorkers, 24 percent (or 214) of whom were Latino. Those interviewed in Spanish were 2 percent of the sample (about 18 people). The poll was conducted August 27-31, 2010. Please note that the Asian sample was too small to report on here.

Looking at other major polls held in New York City on the mosque controversy, Latino opinion is situated differently in different polls in reference to blacks and whites. For example, in a Sept. 10, 2010 
Marist Poll, 52 percent of Latinos opposed the building of the mosque, compared to 56 percent of whites and 42 percent of blacks. In a July 1, 2010 Quinnipiac Poll, 60 percent of Latinos opposed it, compared to 56 percent of whites and 45 percent of blacks.

While polls such as this almost by definition do not sufficiently contextualize the issues they are exploring, they nonetheless provide a glimpse at how the respondents are assessing these issues as presented to them by the media, politicians and other sources. In this and other polls on the subject a number of aspects of this issue are not addressed, assuming that respondents are already familiar with them. In this case this includes the fact that the so-called "mosque" is projected to be a "cultural center" with a "prayer room" for Muslims, and also a space for inter-denominational activities --- Muslim, Christian and Jewish. etc., as well as that:

* About 60 Muslims perished in the World Trade Center attack on Sept.11, 2001.
* There were one or two Muslim prayer rooms or small mosques in the World Trade Center towers before the attack.
* People should not equate Islam and Muslims with the attackers, Al Qaeda, or their self-serving interpretation of Islam.
* Islam is a complex mix of many sects --- from the peaceful Sufis to the militant Wahabees.

Opposition to Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center

According to the New York Times Poll, 50 percent of Latinos oppose the building of the mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, 31 percent supported it and 19 percent indicated they either didn't know or didn't answer the question. A larger percentage of whites (59 percent) and lower percentage of blacks (41 percent) opposed the mosque. This put Latinos squarely in between blacks and whites on this issue. However, the percentage of those who didn't know enough about the issue or didn't answer the question was much higher for Latinos (19 percent) and blacks (16 percent) than for whites (10 percent).

When asked which statement they agreed with: the mosque should be built near Ground Zero, or that it should not and a less controversial location should be found, 67 percent of Latinos felt it should not be built at the current site. Among whites, 73 percent agreed, and among blacks, 62 percent did. This response puts Latinos closer to blacks than whites on this issue.

Awareness of Mosque Issue

Asked how much they heard or read about the mosque controversy, 19 percent of Latinos indicated not much (11 percent) or nothing at all (8 percent). In contrast, only 7 percent of whites and 15 percent of blacks indicated a low to nonexistent awareness of the issue.

In terms of where they get most of their information on this issue, the largest percentage of Latinos pointed to the Internet (17 percent) and NY 1 News (12 percent) (whether it was the Spanish or English language programming was not specified). Much lower percentages indicated individual Spanish-language media: Univision (7 percent), Telemundo TV (6 percent), and El Diario (4 percent), although combined they add up to 17 percent of total news sources for Latinos (not including NY 1 Noticias).

Among whites, it was the Internet (15 percent) and the New York Times (14 percent) that ranked highest, and among blacks it was NY 1 News (12 percent), the Daily News (11 percent), the Internet 10 percent), and radio (10 percent). These results indicate different patterns of information sources for these different racial-ethnic groups as well as a wide dispersal of sources of all three.

On the Right to Build

Asked if those developing the mosque and cultural center had a right to build it near Ground Zero, 59 percent of Latinos agreed that they did. Only 55 percent of whites agreed in contrast to 74 percent of blacks. On this question, Latinos are much closer to the views of whites than blacks.

The more generic question of the right of someone to build a house of worship near Ground Zero was also asked. A large majority of Latinos (65 percent), whites (68 percent) and especially blacks (81 percent) agreed that they did. Again, although there was general agreement on this point, the Latino view was closer to that of whites than blacks.

Whites were the only group opposing the building of mosque in larger numbers than those among them who thought the developers had a right to build it (59 percent opposed versus 55 percent who thought they had the right). For both Latinos and especially blacks, more thought they had a right to build it than opposed it (Latinos: 50 percent opposed versus 59 percent have a right; blacks: 41 percent opposed versus 74 percent have a right).

Role of Politicians and Impact on Voting

Asked whether New York politicians should be taking positions on the Mosque, Latinos were split, 46 percent thinking they should and 50 percent that they should not. Blacks were also divided on this (45 percent should, 48 percent should not), while a majority of whites felt that they should (61 percent, with 32 percent feeling they shouldn't). Large majorities of all three groups felt that non-New York politicians should not be taking stands on the mosque.

Latinos were less approving of the handling of this issue by specific politicians (Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson and President Obama) than either blacks or whites. A much higher percentage of Latinos (60 perent and up) also indicated that they didn't know enough about it or did not answer this question than did blacks or whites. The biggest difference in approving the stands of one of these politicians was with President Obama, where close to half (48 percent) of blacks approved of his taking a stand on this issue, compared to only 24 percent of whites and 27 percent of Latinos.

Majorities of the three racial-ethnic groups felt that the Mosque issue would not affect how they would vote. This ranged from a high of 75 percent of blacks, to 65 percent of Latinos and 57 percent of whites.

Attitudes and Relationship to Muslims

A number of questions were asked about attitudes toward Muslims. Asked if they personally held negative feelings toward Muslims, 21 percent of Latinos indicated they did. This is in comparison to 30 percent of whites and only 10 percent of blacks. Asked whether their friends held negative attitudes towards Muslims, 58 percent of Latinos, 59 percent of whites and 52 percent of blacks stated they did. They were also asked if they felt that Muslins were more sympathetic to terrorists than others: only 30 percent of Latinos, 38 percent of whites and 26 percent of blacks thought so.

Finally, their interaction with Muslims was also explored. The percentage stating that they personally know a Muslim was 56 percent of Latinos, 68 percent of whites and 68 percent of blacks. In terms of having a Muslim as a close friend, 22 percent of Latinos, 25 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks indicated they did. Asked if they had ever visited a mosque, 15 percent of Latinos, 26 percent of whites and 19 percent of blacks stated they have.

Overall, as public opinion on this controversial issue indicates, different racial-ethnic communities appear to have different takes on it. As the Latino positions indicate, such public opinion appears to go beyond simply black and white views, pointing to fact that with Latinos making up about 28 percent of the New York City population, pollsters and the media should be including and analyzing the opinions of Latinos more frequently and prominently.

While the categories of Latino, black and white are rather broad (and in this case overlap to a certain degree), they at least suggest that a deconstruction of public opinion along racial-ethnic lines provides more useful findings. For Latinos, the challenge will be the development of poll data that begins to explore the internal difference between the national origin subgroups (Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, etc.) that fall under this umbrella term.


STORY TAGS: HISPANIC , LATINO , MEXICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , DIVERSITY , LATINA , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY



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