Party Lines Fracture over Americans' View of Muslims, Islam

By Grossman, Cathy Lynn | National Catholic Reporter, February 12, 2016 | Go to article overview

Party Lines Fracture over Americans' View of Muslims, Islam


Grossman, Cathy Lynn, National Catholic Reporter


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.

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 Tramp 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, which was released 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.

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).

"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. …

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