Over half of the public “would not advocate” putting a Muslim in the White House
Controversial remarks by Ben Carson about Muslims in American politics have triggered criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, but the sentiment itself appears to be shared by many Americans.
Last Sunday the retired neurosurgeon told CNN that he “would not advocate putting a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Politicians from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz denounced the comments, calling the sentiment unfair and unconstitutional, while Carson himself later said he could actually support a Muslim candidate for president so long as they swore to be loyal to the Consititution.
The American public, however, remains resistant to the idea of a Muslim president. 57% in total agree with what Carson said about backing a Muslim candidate. The perspective is shared by the vast majority (83%) of Republicans as well as four in ten Democrats.
By 52% to 30%, Americans also say Carson should not apologize for saying he wouldn’t support a Muslim president.
The views are consistent with Americans’ continued negative perception of the Islam in general. 55% have an unfavorable opinion of the religion in the survey, the same as when the question was last asked in March 2015.
Several of Carson’s critics pointed to a clause in the Constitution which says that there can be no religious test for public office in the United States.
YouGov conducted an experiment looking at how Americans view the fairness of using a candidate's religion as a factor in opposing that candidate. Half of respondents were asked whether it would be fair or unfair to oppose a political candidate solely because they are a Christian; the other half were asked the same question about a Muslim candidate. Three-quarters of respondents presented with anti-Christian opposition view the treatment as unfair. When it came to a Muslim candidate, however, only 45% object.
Carson isn’t the only presidential candidate to run into controversy over anti-Muslim remarks.
At a recent rally in New Hampshire, a supporter of Donald Trump's told the candidate he had a problem with Muslims. Trump was criticized for failing to intervene or correct the man, who also said President Barack Obama is a Muslim and not from the United States. Presented with the supporter's full comments, 40% of respondents say Trump had an obligation to challenge the supporter, while 43% say he had no obligation. 17% are unsure.