A new survey from the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) finds that candidates arguing over the proposed Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan has left a bad taste in North Carolina’s voters’ mouths.
The survey comes just a week after Republican Renee Ellmers, who is running to defeat Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), released a campaign ad that basically used “Muslims” and “terrorists” interchangeably and warned that the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero would be a “victory mosque” for terrorists. “After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, and Cordoba, and Constantinople they built victory mosques,” the ad’s narrator said. “And, now, they want to build a mosque by Ground Zero. Where does Bob Etheridge stand? He won’t say. Won’t speak out. Won’t take a stand.”
“North Carolina isn’t exactly a bastion of liberalism but even there a majority of voters think it’s off base for candidates to exploit the proposed ‘Ground Zero mosque’ as a campaign issue,” writes PPP. “51% label doing so as ‘inappropriate’ to just 37% who consider it to be an acceptable tactic.” The disapproval of the ad is even stronger in the area where Ellmers ran the ad; there, 56 percent of voters said it was not appropriate.
Among Republicans, those results were reversed. Sixty percent of GOP voters said using the Islamic cultural center was fine, and only 29 percent objected. As PPP points out, “for Ellmers to win she’s going to have to take an overwhelming share of independents and also capture a healthy level of Democratic support. With those key groups exploiting the mosque is seen as particularly inappropriate- 68% of Democrats and 50% of independents share that feeling.”
“It is reassuring that despite the best efforts of far right-wing propagandists to paint this American community center as a Trojan horse, and then to exploit the resultant fear in order to cultivate votes, the American people are saying ‘no thanks,'” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago. “I think we are all sick and tired of desperate candidates resorting to polarizing, divisive tactics that seek to manipulate. We all long for clean, responsible campaigns that actually tackle the real issues that affect our daily lives and that offer workable solutions to our problems. We’re tired of candidates who take us for granted — or worse yet, insult our intelligence — instead of doing the leg work to earn our votes on the merit of their character and track record. I hope the message coming from this poll continues to be reflected at the most important poll of all: the voting poll this November.” The Ellmers campaign did not return a request for comment.
Last week, Ellmers faced a tough interview from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who took issue with her use of the term “victory mosque.” He noted that there was no evidence that the project, Park51, was intended to be anything like what she was implying, and pointed out that historically, Christians have also built houses of worship after conquering lands. Ellmers said he was “wrong” and asked him, “[A]re you anti-religion, are you anti-Christian in your thinking?” “That’s like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I gotta tell you,” Cooper responded.