Another data point in the debate between Americans and their elected leaders over “who we are.” You would have thought they might have eased up on that after Obama started wagging his finger about Syrian refugees only to find large numbers of Americans on the other side. And yet, much of the official condemnation this week of Trump’s dumb plan to bar Muslim visitors temporarily has taken the same tone.
There’s a partisan divide here but only in terms of how strongly each party supports a common position.
The crosstabs reveal that at least a plurality of every demographic group tested, be it age, race, income, partisan ID, or region, views Islam more unfavorably than favorably. The only group where fewer than 40 percent give thumbs down is black voters, who split 24/37 with another 40 percent saying they’re not sure. That may be because of the prominence of the Nation of Islam or it may be that blacks are more reluctant to join with everyone else in disapproving of a disfavored minority because of their own history. Either way, every other group is north of 40 percent. Even the famously left-tilting cohort of adults 30 and under, some of whom barely remember 9/11, nonetheless split 24/48 on this question.
You can read this two ways. One: It’s simple ignorance. Only 23 percent of Americans say they have a friend who’s Muslim; 15 percent say they have a Muslim co-worker. Polls show that people who know someone who’s gay are more open to gay marriage than people who don’t. To some extent, views of Islam probably work the same way. If you know a Muslim and like him, you’ll naturally be more likely to respect the religion he follows. When asked how well they understand Islam, 52 percent admit ignorance by saying “not too well” or “not well at all,” and some subgroups say they’d like to know more. Among them are the under-30s, who split 44/33 on whether they are or aren’t interested in learning about Islam. Combine that general ignorance with sharp criticism of Islam from conservative media and it’s no surprise you’re going to see opinions tilt against the faith.
As I say, that’s one interpretation. The other interpretation is this: What the hell did you expect?
[T]here is no politician’s statement that is more inflammatory than actual murder and actual terrorism — especially when murder and terror occur on a large scale.
As I’ve said before, since 9/11 Americans have suffered more than 60,000 casualties in our war against jihadists, with thousands more suffering from lingering psychological wounds from grief, loss, and difficult deployments. We’ve watched as radical Muslims burn people alive, throw them off buildings, and chop off heads. In some parts of the Muslim world, mobs of Muslims will sometimes hunt down and kill Christians in the most vicious and gruesome of ways. We’ve seen ISIS attempt genocide, Boko Haram enslave girls, and al Qaeda kill journalists at their desks in Paris. Yet Americans have responded with remarkable grace, and anti-Muslim hate crimes are rare indeed. Yes, it’s true that many Americans dislike Islam. It’s true that many Americans want to either ban Muslim immigration or dramatically restrict entry into the United States (I’m in Andy McCarthy’s camp on the issue).
But don’t blame political rhetoric for this hostility. Blame actions — actions taken in the name of Islam.
That’s from David French, who didn’t even mention the insane bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq 10 years ago and in Syria now. And violent acts, as I mentioned yesterday, are only half the equation. Percentage-wise, the old canard about the “tiny minority of extremists” is true if by “extremists” you mean people willing to wage jihad themselves. If you mean something broader, like the percentage worldwide who’d morally justify capital punishment for apostasy or retribution for mocking Mohammed, the tiny minority ain’t so tiny. And increasingly Americans know it.
By the way, new data from Rasmussen:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 66% of Likely Republican Voters favor a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here. Just 24% oppose the plan, with 10% undecided…
In another survey just before the San Bernardino incident, 49% of U.S. voters said Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions, and 71% thought Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith.
Nearly one-third of Democrats support Trump’s idea of a temporary ban on Muslims. Among unaffiliated voters, 45 percent do versus 39 percent who don’t.
Update: Right on cue, the new NBC/WSJ poll suggests that the public’s suspicion of Islam doesn’t rise to the point that they’d back Trump in barring Muslims from visiting.
Fifty-seven percent of all adults disagree with Trump’s proposal, versus 25 percent who agree.
But views are mixed among Republicans: 42 percent of GOP respondents support Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., while 36 percent oppose it.
And among Republican primary voters, it’s 38 percent support, 39 percent oppose.