By Deepti Hajela
NEW YORK — Most city voters think the New York Police Department has been effective in fighting terrorism, and a majority say the NYPD has acted appropriately in its dealing with Muslims, according to a new poll released Tuesday that questioned respondents following a series of stories from The Associated Press about the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Quinnipiac University survey found that 82 percent of respondents thought that the NYPD had been effective in its counter-terrorism efforts. Asked whether the NYPD dealt with Muslims fairly or targeted them unfairly, 58 percent thought the NYPD was appropriate, while 29 percent thought police were unfair and 13 percent didn't know or had no answer.
The 29 percent is a slight jump up from the 24 percent who thought the police were unfairly targeting Muslims in a February poll.
Overall, 63 percent of those surveyed approved of way police are doing their job, although when asked about the controversial policy for stopping, questioning and frisking people, only 46 percent approved while 49 percent disapproved.
"The numbers have been consistently high," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "People think the cops do a good job."
The stories from the AP reported that police monitored mosques and Muslims around the New York metropolitan area and kept tabs on Muslim student groups at universities in upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The tactics have raised questions over whether the NYPD is ignoring the civil rights of Muslims and illegally engaging in religious and ethnic profiling. The U.S. Justice Department is considering whether to investigate the NYPD's surveillance efforts.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have maintained that the NYPD's actions are legal and necessary in a city under constant threat of another terrorist attack.
Respondents' opinions about the NYPD and their tactics did vary according to factors like racial group or age. While 22 percent of white respondents thought the NYPD had unfairly targeted Muslims, 41 percent of black respondents did. People between the ages of 18-34 were most likely of all age groups to think it was unfair, at 40 percent.
Of those who said they had a favorable impression of Islam, 42 percent thought the police were unfair, while 48 percent thought they were appropriate. Of those who had an unfavorable opinion of the religion, 10 percent thought police targeted Muslims unfairly, while 83 percent thought police acted appropriately.
In terms of the stop-and-frisk policy, 59 percent of white people surveyed approved of it, while only 27 percent of black people did. Blacks and Hispanics make up the vast majority of those stopped.
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Quinnipiac polled 964 New York City voters from March 6-11. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.