Source: Pew Research Center
Most Americans say religion doesn’t cause violence, but rather that violent people use religion to justify their actions
Half of Americans say the next president should be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole when speaking about Islamic extremists, while four-in-ten want the next president to speak bluntly about Islamic extremists even if the statements are critical of Islam as a whole. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that blunt talk is preferred by two-thirds of Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party (65%), while seven-in-ten Democrats and independents who lean Democratic express the opposite view, saying the next president should speak carefully about Islamic extremism so as not to criticize Islam as a whole.
The study also shows that many Americans think a substantial segment of the U.S. Muslim population is anti-American. While four-in-ten adults say “just a few” Muslims in the country are anti-American (or that none are), roughly half of the public believes that at least “some” U.S. Muslims are anti-American, including 11% who say “most” or “almost all” U.S. Muslims are anti-American and 14% who think “about half” the U.S. Muslim population is anti-American.
The new findings come on the heels of a separate Pew Research Center surveyconducted in December 2015, which found that 46% of Americans think Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence and that a similar share (49%) say they are “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S.
While many Americans are concerned about Islamic extremism, the new survey shows that most people think the problem with violence committed in the name of religion is people rather than with religionper se. Indeed, fully two-thirds of Americans say the bigger problem is that some violent people use religion to justify their actions (68%). Only about a fifth (22%) say the bigger problem is that the teachings of some religions promote violence.
However, when those who say they think religious teachings are the bigger problem are asked to specify which religions they think are problematic, Islam is the most common response offered. Among U.S. adults overall, 14% think the main problem with violence committed in the name of religion is that some religious teachings encourage violence and that Islam, in particular, does this.
These are among the key findings of a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 7-14, 2016, on landlines and cellphones among a national sample of 2,009 adults. The survey finds that six-in-ten Americans think there is “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. And fully three-quarters (76%) think discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. is increasing. Even most of those who do not think there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims nevertheless believe anti-Muslim discrimination is on the rise.
The survey shows a clear partisan component to views about Islam. Whereas more than half of Democrats say “just a few” Muslims in the U.S. are anti-American, most Republicans think anti-Americanism is more widespread. About six-in-ten Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP think at least “some” U.S. Muslims harbor anti-American views, including one-third who think at least half of Muslims are anti-American. Views on this question have become more politically polarized since it was last asked in 2002. At that time, there was little difference in the shares of Republicans and Democrats who said “just a few” Muslims are anti-American.
Today, 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% and 15%, respectively).