Something remarkable has happened in the middle of an American presidential campaign noted for its inflammatory rhetoric about Islam and Muslims, and marred by horrific mass violence perpetrated on American soil in the name of Islam: American public attitudeths toward the Muslim people and the Muslim religion have not worsened—in fact they have become progressively more favorable, even after the Orlando shooting. That’s what two new polls show, one taken two weeks before Orlando, the other two weeks after, which released at the Brookings Institution on Monday, July 11, 2016.
On July 11, Brookings launched two new public opinion surveys focusing on American Attitudes toward Islam and Muslims, conducted by Shibley Telhami.
Comparing the results of three University of Maryland national polls—all fielded by Neilson Scarborough—taken in November 2015, in May 2016 and in June 2016 (after the June 12th Orlando shooting), the trends are surprising. Asked about their views of the Muslim people, respondents who expressed favorable views went from 53 percent in November 2015, to 58 percent in May 2016, to 62 percent in June 2016. At the same time, favorable views of Islam went from 37 percent, to 42 percent, to 44 percent over the same period—still under half, but with marked improvement over a period of seven months. (See the survey methodology here.)
In parallel, a “clash of civilization” question, asking about the compatibility of Islamic and Western religious and social traditions, showed similar trends. The percentage of those who said the two were compatible went up from 57 percent, to 61 percent, to 64 percent over the three polls.
On all three issues, Republican views remained relatively fixed over the three polls. The change occurred among Democrats and Independents. For example, among Democrats, favorable views of the Muslim people rose 12 points. Among independents, that number rose 17 points.
How does one account for these results? Four factors may provide some context for why, despite heated campaign rhetoric and the worst mass shooting in American history, views of Islam and Muslims have not worsened and have instead, in some measurable cases, improved...
Click here to see the full results of the poll and here to see more key findings.
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