After an election year that stirred up animosity across racial and religious lines, a new survey has found that Americans are actually feeling warmer toward people in nearly every religious group — including Muslims — than they did three years ago. Muslims and atheists still rank at the bottom of the poll, which asked respondents to rate their attitudes toward religious groups on a “feeling thermometer.” However, Muslims and atheists — who have long been targets of prejudice in the United States — received substantially warmer ratings on the scale than they did in a survey in 2014: Muslims rose to 48 percent from 40, and atheists to 50 percent from 41.
The religious groups that ranked highest, as they did three years ago, were Jews (67 percent) and Catholics (66 percent). Mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, who were measured for the first time, came in at 65 percent. Buddhists rose on the scale to 60 percent from 53, Hindus to 58 from 50, and Mormons to 54 from 48. Evangelical Christians were the only group that did not improve their standing from three years ago, plateauing at 61 percent.
The survey of 4,248 adults, conducted by the Pew Research Center, did not ask why people hold the attitudes they do. (The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.) The poll was conducted from Jan. 9 to 23 of this year, a period just before and during the inauguration of President Trump. Many blamed Mr. Trump for exacerbating religious prejudice with his campaign promise to protect Americans from terrorism by banning Muslims from entering the United States.
During and after the presidential campaign, Muslims reported a wave of harassment on the streets and attacks on their mosques and community centers. Jewish institutions have also reported a spike in vandalism and threats. So a survey showing a spike in warm feelings among people of different religions came as something of a surprise, said Jessica Hamar Martínez, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center…
The responses varied depending on who was asked. Younger Americans, aged 18 to 29, rated Muslims and atheists more warmly, and Jews far more coolly, than Americans 50 and older. Black Americans felt more warmly than white or Hispanic Americans toward Muslims. But in every case, people felt more warmly toward religious groups when they personally knew someone in that group. Compared with 2014, the percentage of Americans who said they personally knew a Muslim had increased to 45 from 38, the highest increase in personal contact for any religious group.
Source: New York Times