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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Opinion on Islam

The public remains divided over whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. Currently, 40% say the Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence while 42% say it is not.

These opinions have changed little in recent years. But in March 2002, just 25% saw Islam as more likely to encourage violence while twice as many (51%) disagreed.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 22-March 1 among 1,504 adults, finds that most young people reject the idea that Islam is more likely than other religions to promote violence. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) of those younger than 30 say Islam does not encourage violence more than other religions; 31% say it does. By contrast, a plurality of those 50 and older (45%) say Islam is more likely to encourage violence.

Gallup reports:

Republicans and Democrats differ significantly in their views of the House Homeland Security Committee hearings to investigate terrorist recruitment efforts in the American Muslim community, scheduled to begin Thursday morning in Washington. While 52% of all Americans say these hearings are appropriate, Republicans, at 69%, are much more likely to say this than are Democrats, at 40%. Independents' views are similar to the national average, with 51% supporting the hearings.

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York will chair the scheduled hearings, which are officially called "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response." The hearings have become controversial, with various individuals and groups arguing that they should be expanded to other groups involved in domestic terrorism rather than singling out just U.S. Muslims. The March 8 USA Today/Gallup poll underscores the polarizing nature of the hearings, with King's fellow Republicans strongly supporting them, while Democrats tilt in the opposite direction.

The survey also included a set of questions asking Americans whether four specific characteristics apply to Muslims living in the U.S. These characteristics are similar to a longer series measured in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in July 2006.

As was the case in 2006, Americans overwhelmingly agree that Muslims in America are committed to their religious beliefs and about half (53%) also agree that Muslims are supportive of the United States. Thirty-six percent say Muslims living in the U.S. are too extreme in their religious beliefs. Americans are least likely to agree that U.S. Muslims are sympathetic to the al Qaeda terrorist organization (28%), similar to what Gallup found in 2006