February 3, 2016

Americans’ views on Islam, Muslims divide by party lines

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If history is our guide, the differences in the Republican Party between the "God" voters -- those backing Ted Cruz, at right -- and the "Country" voters -- who favor Donald Trump -- will not last long. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane

If history is our guide, the differences in the Republican Party between the "God" voters -- those backing Ted Cruz, at right -- and the "Country" voters -- who favor Donald Trump -- will not last long. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane

Republicans more likely than Democrats to say some religions’ teachings promote violence. Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Republicans more likely than Democrats to say some religions’ teachings promote violence. Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

(RNS) Republicans and Democrats divide sharply over views on Islam, Muslims and how a U.S. president should label violent extremists.

But Americans overall agree there’s “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims living in the United States — and it’s rising — a new Pew Research survey finds.


RELATED STORY: Obama pleads for tolerance in first visit to US mosque


The survey, of 2,009 U.S. adults, was conducted in January, a month after 14 people were killed in a San Bernardino, Calif., terrorism attack and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for banning Muslims’ entry to the United States.

“I’m struck by the finding that 25 percent of the public thinks at least half the Muslims in the U.S. are anti-American,” said Besheer Mohamed, a senior researcher at Pew and a co-author of the survey analysis, released Wednesday (Feb. 3).

The overall finding was the same for this question when it was asked in 2002, a year after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

What’s new, said Mohamed, is the partisan split in 2016 that was not evident in 2002.


RELATED STORY: Muslim Americans involved in terrorism ‘rose dramatically’ in 2015


Among Democrats and those who lean Democratic, 54 percent say “just a few or no” Muslims here are anti-American. Thirty-four percent say this is so for about half or some Muslims in the U.S., and 7 percent say it’s true for almost all Muslims living here.

But for Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP, 29 percent say that few or no Muslims are anti-American. Forty-seven percent say this is so for half or some, and 16 percent say almost all of them harbor anti-American views.

It’s hard to know the reason behind the partisan realignment since 2002. But, Mohamed said, there are clues in responses to the survey question on how the public wants the next president to talk about “Islamic extremists” (the phrase Pew used in its questionnaire).


RELATED STORY: Muslim Americans fear demonization of Islam after mass shooting


“We see a sharp partisan split on this,” he said.

Overall, 50 percent of U.S. adults say the next president should “be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole when speaking about Islamic extremists,” while 40 percent say the next president should “speak bluntly about Islamic extremists even if the statements are critical of Islam as a whole.”

Democrats and Republicans are almost mirror opposites on this.

“For Republicans, 65 percent want a blunt-talking president, even if that means the president is critical of Islam. Whereas, for Democrats, 70 percent say the next president should be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole,” said Mohamed.

Among Republican voters, most who favor blunt talk say Trump or his chief rival, Texas Sen. Cruz, would make “good” or “great” presidents.


RELATED STORY: What do the Iowa caucus winners believe? Check RNS’ ‘5 Faith Facts’ series


 

What is the bigger problem about violence in the name of religion? Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

What is the bigger problem about violence in the name of religion? Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

According to the report, “Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to say the main problem with violence committed in the name of religion is that some religions espouse violent teachings (though this is the minority view within both parties at 32 percent and 15 percent respectively).”

That finding echoes a December 2015 survey that found 46 percent of Americans think Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

In the latest survey, Pew finds that most Americans say religion doesn’t cause violence, but rather violent people use religion to justify their actions. More than 2 in 3 (68 percent) say some violent people use religion to justify their actions. But 22 percent say the teachings of some religions promote violence, including 14 percent who point the finger at Islam.

Partisanship also shows up on whether Muslims living in the U.S. face “a lot” of discrimination: 74 percent of Democrats but only 42 percent of Republicans say this is so.

Even so, the parties unite on one point: 76 percent, including majorities in both parties, say “discrimination against Muslims is on the rise.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is senior national correspondent at RNS)

  • Jed

    Per capita discrimination against Muslies is actually very low. It’s lower than that directed at jews. This from recent FBI reports.

    Discrimination against Muslims is actually not high enough, based on the religious values promoted within the quran, and based on the actions of Muslims themselves that warrant criticism and discrimination.

    You can find Islamic religious materials in mosques that preach hatred and violence.

    You can find many Muslims and Islamic organizations – even in the US – that preach violence and sedition.

    Cannot anyone name any country where Muslims have obtained a significant population and jihad and violence to over throw a government in favor of sharia?

    What makes islam different when it crosses the American border? Secret propaganda sauce?

  • Hassan

    I really can’t believe you said discrimination against Muslims is actually not high enough. Wow you are openly bigot n guess what we are here to stay.

  • A

    I guess we know which party “Jed” votes for….

  • Donald

    Indonesia
    Qatar
    Jordan
    Lebanon
    Tunisia
    UAE
    Turkey
    Benin
    Bukino Faso
    Chad
    Camaron
    Cote d’Ivoire
    Gabon
    Ghana
    Guinea
    Guinea-Bassau
    Mali
    Mosembeque
    Senegal
    Sierra-Leone
    Guyana
    Surinam
    Ethiopia
    Eritria
    Algeria
    Gambia
    Gabon

    … I am tired of typing in things for people that are too stupid to look them up. Few Muslim countries have or enforce Sharia Law.

    Jed is either an idiot or a troll.

  • Donald

    I can name dozens,

    Turkey
    Indonesia
    Gabon
    Ghana
    Tunisia
    Surinam
    Cote d’Iovrie
    Benin
    Camaron
    Chad
    Kenya
    Libia
    Mali
    Algeria
    Morocco
    Uganda
    Ethiopia
    UAE
    Qatar
    Syria (ISIS has nothing to do with the revolution)

    and on and on … few Muslim countries require or enforce Sharia Law.

  • Re: “Per capita discrimination against Muslies is actually very low. It’s lower than that directed at jews.”

    Ah. So that makes it OK for Muslims to be threatened, attacked, and even hospitalized? Before you say it’s not happening, rest assured, it is: http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2015/12/13/the-violent-neocrusade-really-is-underway/

    This sort of thing is fine with you as long as the numbers are small enough? Are you really sure you want to go with that?

    Re: “You can find Islamic religious materials in mosques that preach hatred and violence.”

    And you can find Christian preachers who want people killed, too. See:

    http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/2012/05/21/pastor-wants-gays-penned-in-and-killed-off/
    http://news.yahoo.com/republican-candidates-attend-rally-where-014821801.html

    Just so you’re clear on that. Christianity doesn’t have a lock on virtue, and Islam doesn’t have a lock on villainy. Got it?

  • Dallas Stephens

    This is a great story if one’s into one-sided reporting. I just wish Pew had also added to the story the percentage of Muslims living in America favor Sharia Law. The figures I’ve seen would suggest a majority of American Muslims do. And if that’s the case, given what it says about infidels, I would argue with the Repub’s that over half of America’s Muslims are anti-American.

  • OJ

    @Dallas S. Shariah laws are applicable in Muslim lands only, where the Muslims are in majority or the ruler is a Muslim. Muslims are obligated to follow the law of the land as a minority (which would be the case in the US). This is quite clear in Islamic jurisprudence, which is been around for over 1300 years. What figures are you referring to? Are they coming from the same sources that tells us; Muslim Americans who make less than 3% of the US population are about to impose shariah? :- )
    And just an FYI, there is no concept of “infidels” in Islam. It’s a Latin term used by Christians for disbelievers of Christianity. Quran clearly states there is no compulsion in religion. Time to get educated to fight against islamophobia!!