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City of Brass

POLL: 48% unfavorable towards Islam, 10% still think Obama is muslim

President Obama is visiting Turkey, which looks to be the occasion of his promised “major address” in a muslim-majority country. In some sense it’s a “safe” choice, as Turkey is seeking EU membership and clearly is trying to position itself between the western and islamic worlds. I think that a major address in Cairo would have been far more significant, especially in building credibility amongst the muslim masses for Obama’s rhetoric about respect and engagement with the muslim world. Maybe next time.
In stark contrast to the President’s agenda, however, is the astonishing finding by ABC News’ poll (PDF) that finds 48% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion towards Islam, the highest since 2001. 29% believe that mainstream Islam encourages violence towards non- believers (a point of view that is internalized as dogma in the Republican Party especially). It’s worth noting the demographic breakdown:


There are political and ideological differences here as well. About two-thirds of liberals and moderates see Islam as peaceful, as do 62 percent of Democrats and independents; fewer conservatives or Republicans agree, 49 percent and 51 percent respectively. And just 26 percent of conservatives and 33 percent of Republicans see the religion favorably.

Islam also is more apt to be seen unfavorably by less-educated adults, Southerners and senior citizens than by their counterparts.

Compared with the first ABC poll to ask the question in October 2001, unfavorable views of Islam have increased by 23 points among senior citizens, 19 points among conservatives, 18 points among Republicans and 12 points among Southerners. There’s one group – liberals – among whom unfavorable views of Islam have declined, by 11 points.


That’s not all, though. Another poll by the Pew Center finds that 10% still believe Obama is a muslim! That’s the same level as during the campaign. Note that though the majority of that group are opposed to him, there is still a core who are actually supporters. This really speaks to the existence of a basal level of Islamophobia in the population at large, for the muslim smear to have such staying power this long (and in the face of such obvious and overwhelming evidence to the contrary). As thabet at Talk Islam notes wryly, some recent  events (heavily promoted by the right-wing blogsphere) probably helped perpetuate it.


Here’s the PDF of the ABC poll embedded below for convenient viewing:

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posted April 6, 2009 at 8:40 pm

This is unfortunate. I honestly don’t know how we can go about changing people’s minds, though. I keep hearing the anti-Muslim crowd saying “well, the moderates won’t speak out, so they must be in agreement with the terrorists”, but I have to wonder whether or not they’re even listening. It’s hard to hear someone speak out when you’ve watching the 24-hour news at full volume. Of course they’re not going to show Muslims in a positive light; they rarely show anything in a positive light.

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posted April 8, 2009 at 12:56 am

I agree with the previous post. It is hard to change the minds of people when they are already set. The media has already portrayed Islam in a bad light. I dont think anyone wants to hear anything else. It is a thing of people believing what they want. Is there anyone who wants to hear the real truth? I dont think so.

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Jeremy Stangroom

posted April 12, 2009 at 8:28 am

“10% still believe Obama is a muslim”
Actually that’s not a particularly discouraging figure (when you consider, for example, that one in three Americans think the sun goes around the Earth, etc).
Also, you’d do well not to describe the belief that Obama is a Muslim as a “smear” in that unqualified way. Unless you think there’s something wrong in being a Muslim, it’s not a “smear” (though, of course, it does play to people’s prejudices).

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