Current public perceptions of American Muslims are distinctly unfavorable.
That’s according to multiple surveys from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, including the 2017 Views of the Electoral Research (VOTER) Survey, which assessed viewpoints of 5,000 Americans, all of whom had been previously surveyed in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a collaboration of nearly two dozen analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum.
In the group’s new “Muslims in America: Public Perceptions in the Trump Era” report published in June, researchers found that on average, Americans believe that only 51 percent of Muslim Americans respect American ideals and laws.
Nearly one-in-five Americans would even deny Muslims who are U.S. citizens the right to vote.
Stereotyping is strongly related to cultural conservatism and views were even more polarized among those favorable to President Donald Trump, the report found. For example, Democrats believe that a majority of Muslims (67 percent) wanted to fit in, yet Republicans believed only 36 percent did. And when comparing Muslims and Christians, Democrats evaluated Muslims slightly more favorably than Christians (+15 vs +11), whereas Republicans evaluated them much less favorably (-4 vs +24).
The gap between average ratings of Muslims and Christians among Trump supporters: -10 vs +25.
According to the report, many Republicans consider Islam a “false religion” and Muslims as both not willing to fit in and sympathetic to terrorism. They also saw Muslims as willing to engage in terrorist acts.
Previous research, the report noted, shows that white Americans with less favorable views of other different racial, religious, and cultural minorities, such as “black people, Jews, atheists, gays and lesbians, and illegal immigrants,” also have less favorable views of Muslims.
The most prevalent Muslim stereotypes that crossed partisan and ideological lines included their religiosity, outdated views of women and views of gays and lesbians.
American stereotypes vs Muslim American views
“This negative stereotyping of Muslim Americans is more prevalent than stereotyping of Christians,” report authors John Sides and Dalia Mogahed wrote. “It is also quite out-of-step with the actual attitudes and characteristics of Muslim Americans.”
In fact, Pew Research’s latest surveys of Muslim Americans suggest large majorities of both immigrant and U.S.-born Muslims have high levels of national pride — and they’re as likely as the general American population to say they’re proud of being American.
Seventy-six percent of Muslim Americans also said the targeting and killing of civilians can never be justified. Only 56 percent of the general American public said that.
On homosexuality, 2017 Pew Survey results showed 52 percent of Muslim Americans actually believe “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” While that number is lower than the general public (63 percent), it is much higher than white evangelical Protestants’ views (34 percent).
And regarding outdated views on women, researchers noted that 72 percent of Muslim Americans (compared to 81 percent of the general public) believe women should be able to work outside the home.
A rejection of gender roles is also visible in the fact that 2016 and 2017 studies found Muslim American women were much more educated than males. Seventy-three percent of Muslim American women have an education beyond high school, while 57 percent of Muslim American men do.
Islamophobia in America
“The 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump administration brought a renewed focus on Muslim populations both inside and outside the United States,” Democracy Fund report authors John Sides and Dalia Mogahed wrote. “As a candidate, President Trump suggested that large numbers of Syrian refugees were terrorists and falsely claimed that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the Sept. 11 attacks. He proposed a national database to register Muslims, enhanced surveillance of mosques in the United States, and a ban on Muslims entering the United States.”
During his presidency so far, Trump has also received backlash for re-tweeting anti-Islam videos by British group Britain First and for selecting or nominating advisers that have previously made anti-Muslim comments.
And hate crime statistics reflect rising anxiety among Muslims. According to FBI data, there were 127 Muslim victims of assault in 2016, an increase from 91 in 2015 and 56 in 2014.
There are currently approximately 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States, according to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center.
By 2050, researchers estimate Islam will supplant Judaism as the second-most popular religion in the country with 8.1 million Muslims ultimately making up 2.1 percent of the population.
According to the latest figures from 2017, 70 percent of immigrant Muslims are U.S. citizens—much higher than the 51 percent rate among U.S. immigrants overall. The rate is up to 87 percent compared to 55 percent when taking into account immigrants who become naturalized citizens after five years of permanent residence.
Both U.S.-born and immigrant Muslims are also much more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Equal shares of both groups identify as moderates.
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