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Fact Sheet | American Attitudes on Muslims

[11.07.2011]

What You Need to Know

 

I. LIMITED SOCIAL INTERACTION WITH MUSLIMS

Few Americans report having regular interactions with Muslims.

  • Three-in-ten Americans say they interact daily (6 percent) or occasionally (24 percent) with a Muslim. More than two-thirds (68 percent) report that they seldom or never interact with a Muslim.
  • Millennials are significantly more likely than seniors to report speaking at least occasionally with someone who is Muslim (34 percent vs. 16 percent respectively).

II. LITTLE KNOWLEDGE OF ISLAM

Few Americans report having much knowledge about the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims.

  • Fourteen percent of Americans say they know a lot about the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims, 57 percent say they know a little, and nearly 3-in-10 (29 percent) say they know nothing at all.

III. MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT MUSLIM CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN SOCIETY

Americans are divided over how comfortable they feel with certain aspects of Muslim culture and Muslim religious expression in society. There are large differences by partisan affiliation and generation.

  • A slim majority of Americans report being comfortable with Muslim women wearing the Burqa (51 percent), a Mosque being built near their home (51 percent) and Muslim men praying at an airport (53 percent). A stronger majority of Americans report that they would feel comfortable with a Muslim teaching elementary school (57 percent).
  • Majorities of Democrats (57 percent) and independents (55 percent) say they would be comfortable with a mosque being built near their home, compared to only 37 percent of Republicans and one-third (33 percent) of Americans who identify with the tea party movement. Similar partisan differences are evident across all other measures.
  • There are striking differences in levels of comfort felt by Americans by generation. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Millennials say that they would be comfortable with a Muslim teaching elementary school their community, compared to only 36 percent of seniors. More than 6-in-10 (61 percent) Millennials say they would be comfortable with a mosque being built near their home, compared to only 37 percent of seniors.

 IV. FEW CONCERNS ABOUT SHARI’A LAW

By a margin of 2-to-1, the general public rejects the notion that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Shari’a law as the law of the land in the U.S. (61 percent disagree, 30 percent agree).

  • Democrats are much less likely to believe that Muslims want to establish Shari’a law than Republicans. Only 22 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of political independents believe that American Muslims are trying to establish Shari’a law in the U.S., compared to 45 percent of Republicans and a majority (54 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement.
  • Solid majorities of every major religious group disagree that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Shari’a law in the U.S. However, White evangelical Protestants stand apart from other groups, with 46 percent agreeing that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Shari’a law in the U.S., and nearly equal numbers disagreeing (48 percent).
  • Between February 2011 and August 2011, there has been a 7-point increase among Americans who believe that that American Muslims are intent on establishing Shari’a law in the U.S. (23 percent to 30 percent).
  • The increase in belief that American Muslims want to establish Shari’a law in America is much more pronounced among Republicans. Among Democrats, there is a 7-point increase in agreement (15 percent to 22 percent) over this period. Among political independents, the increase is just 4-points (25 percent to 29 percent). Among Republicans, however, there is a 14-point increase in agreement that American Muslims want to establish Shari’a law in the U.S (40 percent to 54 percent).

 V. DIVISION OVER VIEWS OF ISLAM

Americans are evenly divided over whether the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life (47 percent agree, 48 percent disagree).

  • Approximately two-thirds of Republicans, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values. A majority of Democrats, Independents, disagree. Major religious groups are divided on this question. Nearly 6-in-10 white evangelical Protestants believe the values of Islam are at odds with American values, but majorities of Catholics, non-Christian religiously unaffiliated Americans, and religiously unaffiliated Americans disagree.

VI. MUSLIM AMERICANS AS PART OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY 

A majority (54 percent) of the general public agree that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the U.S., compared to 43 percent who disagree.

Source: PRRI, August 2011

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.