Story highlights

58% of respondents to Quinnipiac University poll back NYPD's surveillance of Muslims

CAIR official: People approve of tactics they wouldn't stand for if aimed at them

The poll found a racial divide over approval of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" tactic

(CNN) —  

Most New Yorkers believe the city’s police act appropriately in dealing with Muslims, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

In the poll, taken amid a tumultuous public debate surrounding the police department’s surveillance of Muslims, 58% of respondents found no fault with police actions toward Muslims. And 82% said they believe the antiterrorism efforts of the NYPD have been effective.

Overall, 63% said they generally approve of the way the department does its job.

The survey questioned 964 registered voters across New York’s five boroughs from March 6 through Sunday.

“Voter approval of the way police are handling terrorism is through the roof and overall approval for police in general and for (Police) Commissioner Ray Kelly is undented by criticism,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Poll respondents also gave Kelly a 64% approval rating for his leadership of the NYPD, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a 67% approval rating for the way he is handling crime.

But when asked about the controversial “stop and frisk” tactic of police, responses were split: 59% of self-identified white voters approved of the practice, while 68% of self-identified black voters and 52% of self-identified Hispanic voters disapproved.

The department’s “stop and frisk” policy has prompted its own debate over the years, with some claiming it is nothing less than racial profiling targeting minorities.

Critics of NYPD treatment of Muslims claim the police are denying Muslims basic civil rights, and perpetrating ethnic and religious profiling.

“It’s one of these situations where people are OK with other people being targeted with tactics they would never approve of themselves,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in response to Tuesday’s poll.

Polling numbers show that most New Yorkers, 54%, have a positive opinion of Islam, with 65% of those polled saying mainstream Islam is a peaceful religion.

Hooper said those numbers are positive, but added, “Our basic position is that civil and legal rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, and not subject to the changing nature of public opinion in times of crisis and national security.”

He added, “I’d like to see polling data of how people felt about the internment of Japanese-Americans just after Pearl Harbor.”

Last month, Kelly addressed reporters amid a flurry of questions about NYPD tactics. “Our efforts are to protect everyone in New York City, no particular group,” he said. “We are continuing to do what we believe necessary to protect the city, pursuant to the law.”

The Quinnipiac University poll is based on a random sample of people 18 years of age and older, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.