Is Islam The Problem?

March 17, 2011, 4:34 PM GMT+0

For many Americans, though not quite a majority in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Islam is a problem. These Americans see Islam as a religion that is more likely than others to encourage violence, and view it unfavorably. And-- like Republican Rep. Peter King, who held Congressional hearings on American Muslim extremism last week-- a majority of Americans think Muslim-Americans should be doing more to discourage extremism.

Republicans and Democrats agree with this, though there is far more agreement from Republicans. And among those who identify with the Tea Party, 88% want Muslim Americans to do more.

There also are large party differences when it comes to linking Islam with violence. Just 24% of Democrats believe Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, while 74% of Republicans do. Overall, 41% say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

A majority of Republicans view Arab-Americans as less patriotic than other Americans; Democrats disagree. But both parties agree that there is at least a fair amount of discrimination against Arab-Americans, and more see discrimination against Arab-Americans than see it against Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans.

And while 47% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam today, that is lower than the percentage who felt that way last year. Then majorities held unfavorable views of the religion.

When Americans express opinions about Islam, it may be based on limited knowledge of the religion. And many Americans admit to little knowledge. Just 12% say they know a great deal about the religion.

Image source: flickr ( davehighbury )

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