Poll: Mosque Controversy Not Helping GOP in New York

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 18 2010 10:14 AM

Poll: Mosque Controversy Not Helping GOP in New York

The first politician for a major elected office who came out against the "ground zero mosque" was Rick Lazio , the man who lost the New York U.S. Senate race to Hillary Clinton in 2000, who's making a comeback bid to run for governor. Lazio asked for a mosque probe more than a month ago, challenged frontrunner Andrew Cuomo to a debate about the mosque -- basically, he's milked it for all it's worth.

So what does it mean that this isn't helping Lazio at all?

Advertisement

The new Siena Poll finds that New Yorkers (everyone in the state) oppose the mosque by a 63-27 margin; they defend the constitutional right to build it by a 64-28 margin. At the same time, Lazio trails Cuomo by 34 points. He's down 2 points -- within the margin of error, but not what you'd expect if the Great Mosque Debate of 2010 was hitting home. He leads his closest rival, businessman and tea party candidate Carl Paladino, by 33 points. Last month, he led by 41 points.

Funny enough, New York may not be the best test case for how the mosque plays politically. Cuomo has been the favorite to win this election for more than a year. But if it was truly explosive, wouldn't Lazio be gaining something ?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.