American public opinion about the
religion of Islam
before and shortly after 911
Opinions about Islam by the American public:
Polls typically show that Christians -- particularly Fundamentalist and other
Evangelical Protestant Christians -- have a very negative view of Islam.
||1995-JUL: Barna Research Ltd. is the most active religious polling
organization in the United States. They conduct telephone polls about a
variety of topics -- mainly involving Christianity. 1 George Barna, president of Barna Research commented: "While
many Americans are not practicing Christians, they retain some identity
with the Christian faith and remain protective of it. They are suspicious
of other faith groups because they are unknown but differentóand we are
generally uncomfortable with those who are not just like us..."¬†Barna asked a random selection of American adults in 1995-JUL
whether they thought that various religions had a positive or negative
effect on U.S. society. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.
Responses were only counted from those subjects who regarded themselves to
be familiar with the
religion in question. 2
American adults, Christians and non-Christians alike, regard Christianity and Judaism as
having a positive influence on society. Islam, Buddhism, Scientology and
Atheism¬† received mixed reviews. Partial results of the survey are:
||% of born-again Christians who view the religion's impact as
||% of non-Christians who view the religion's impact as negative
We suspect that mainline and liberal Christians have opinions that are
intermediate between the above two groups. The percentage of American
adults who are "born-again" is about 35%. The percentage of
non-Christians is about 25% and is increasing by
about one percentage point per year.
2001-NOV-13: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted a public opinion poll among 1,500
adults on 2001-NOV-13 to 19 -- about two months after the 9-11 terrorist attack. The margin of error is within 3 percentage points. Americans, particularly "conservative
Republicans" appear to have repudiated anti-Muslim attacks by Franklin
Graham and other Fundamentalist Christian leaders. The survey found that:
||The percentage of Americans with a favorable view of Muslims rose from 45% in May to 59% in November.
||The percentage of conservative Republicans with a favorable view of Muslims rose from 35% to 64%! 3
||2002-OCT-28: ABCNEWS.com reported on the results of an
ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll conducted in 2002-OCT among a random sampling of
American adults. Some interesting results:
||The percentage of American adults with an unfavorable view of Islam
rose from 24% in January to 33% in October.
||The percentage of American adults who say that Islam "doesn't teach
respect for other faiths" rose from 22% to 35%.
||The percentage of American adults who feel that they do not have a
good basic understanding of the beliefs and tenets of Islam rose from 61%
||Evangelical, white Protestants are 22 percentage points more likely
than other white Protestants to express an unfavorable opinion of Islam. 4
The poll was taken just before the two "Beltway Sniper"
suspects were arrested and one
of them was identified as a convert to Islam. If the poll had been repeated
a few weeks later, the numbers would probably have increased.
||2002-FALL: The Ethics and Public Policy Center, a
Washington think-tank, and Beliefnet, a religious Internet web
site, commissioned a poll of 700 Fundamentalist and other Evangelical
Protestant leaders. The poll was conducted by the Ray C. Bliss
Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, and
was financed by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Results
were released on 2003-APR-7. Half of the religious leaders responded; this
is a very large return for a mail-in poll. The poll showed that:
||77% had an unfavorable view of Islam; 13% had a favorable view.
||72% believe that Islam opposes pluralism (in the sense of religious
diversity) and democracy,
||72% believe that the Sharia legal systems violate human freedom.
||10% agreed with President George W. Bush that Islam is "a
religion of peace."
||70% believe that Islam is a religion of violence.
||17% believe that Muslims and Christian pray to the same God.
||2% believe that all the world's great religions are equally true and
These beliefs do not
bode well for the future of religious tolerance in the U.S.¬†Large minorities of citizens view
Islam and other non-Christian religions
negatively. If similar results were found in a survey about other races,
other genders, other sexual orientations, or other nationalities, then one
could attribute the response to simple racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia.
But the above survey is in a different class. Many born-again Christians
believe that the normal destination for people after death is Hell;
only those who are born-again will attain heaven. Thus, any religion that
does not motivate people to be "saved" would, in their view,
have a negative impact on its members, and thus on society as a whole. So,
it may be positive concern for followers of other religions that is causing the
born-again Christians to have extremely low opinion of those religions.
- Barna Research has a home page at: http://www.barna.org
- "Christianity has a strong positive image despite fewer active
participants," Barna Research, 1996-FEB-5, at: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?
- "U.S. Muslims' Image Gains, Poll Finds," Associated Press,
2001-DEC-7, at: http://www.latimes.com/news/
- Steven Waldman and Deborah Caldwell, "Unease With Islam; Public
Opinion Shifts, As Religious Leaders Speak Out," at: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/
- "UWE SIEMON-NETTO: Pursuing an Evangelical-Muslim dialogue,"
United Press International, at: http://www.bakersfield.com/
- "Evangelical views of Islam," Beliefnet, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
Copyright © 2001 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-SEP-19
Latest update: 2006-SEP-17
Author: B.A. Robinson