Pretty amazing to see mirror-image polling in two western nations on an issue of cultural assimilation as hot-button as Islamic dress, yet here we are. Is this a difference in bedrock principles, with freedom of religion a founding constitutional concern in the United States? Or is this a difference in population trends, with Germans reacting to “Mama Merkel” ushering more than a million Middle Eastern refugees into the population with hundreds of thousands more to come this year?
Right, I know: Probably both.
Another poll of German opinion found 81 percent support for banning the burqa in some public places and 51 percent support — a majority — for banning that style of dress outright. A recent survey of Switzerland found support for banning the burqa to the tune of 70 percent nationwide. If Europe can’t convince its Muslims to assimilate psychologically, it’s going to insist that they at least go through the motions in appearances. A woman who’s accustomed by law to show her face on the street every day, the theory goes, will eventually find the thought of covering it strange and intolerable.
As for American opinion, no surprises here — except maybe that Republicans, while evenly divided, still tilt in the same direction that Democrats and independents do:
The most interesting number is the one YouGov didn’t bother polling, namely, how pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans split on the issue. It strikes me that this is a perfect issue with which to compare the strength of nationalist and libertarian tendencies within the GOP. Libertarians will, or should, insist that religious liberty means that an individual can dress how she likes to honor her faith. Nationalists will say that illiberal Islamic customs like face coverings for women make a show of rejecting western culture and should be banned in the name of making clear to Muslims that they need to assimilate. A 46/43 split among Republicans captures pretty well, I think, the fact that the GOP is essentially two distinct parties cooperating against the left. In fact, 43 percent is very close to the share of the popular vote won by Trump in the Republican primaries this year, 44.5 percent (which of course included some crossover independents and Democrats). If you’re looking for a back-of-the-envelope share of right-wing support that nationalists currently command, that 43-44 percent range seems pretty solid.
Germany’s interior minister wants to ban the burqa too, by the way, at least in certain public places like schools. France has had a law in effect for fully five years now that bans face coverings of any sort in public places; whether it’s helped to improve assimilation is unclear, and there are some people who believe that it’s backfired terribly. Good luck to Germany et al. in their forthcoming experiment. I’m sure banning facial coverings will ease the cultural pressure from millions of young Syrians, Afghanis, etc, bringing a taste of home to Europe.