A Washington Post-ABC News poll on American attitudes towards Islam and Muslims, published today, is garnering much attention because of its negativity, but the numbers differ little from those of almost three years earlier. The current one finds that:
- 33 percent say Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims and 54 percent call it a peaceable religion.
- 46 percent of respondents have unfavorable attitudes towards Islam and 43 percent have favorable attitudes.
- 58 percent say there are more violent extremists within Islam than in other religions, 34 percent say about the same, and 3 percent say fewer.
In contrast, the July 2003 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (subtitled "Growing Number Says Islam Encourages Violence Among Followers"), analyzed by me at "[Fixing] Islam's Image Problem," found
- 44 percent say Islam is likely "to encourage violence among its believers."
- 51 percent have positive views of American Muslims.
- 31 percent say the would not vote for a Muslim as a candidate for president.
- 22 percent reply affirmatively to the question, do "the Muslim religion and your own religion have a lot in common?"
On the key question, the 2003 survey found 44 percent believing that Islam encourages violence and this new one only 33 percent. It is hard to see where the Washington Post came up with the conclusion that a "growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam." (March 9, 2006)
Apr. 12, 2006 update: CBS News reports a poll of Americans taken on April 6-9, which really does find a more negative view of Islam:
- 45 percent replied "unfavorable" to the question, "What is your impression of Islam?" and 19 percent "favorable." In February 2002, the percentages were 33 percent unfavorable and 30 percent favorable, pointing to what CBS terms "sinking perceptions of Islam."
The poll finds that Islam has the lowest favorables among Americans than any mainstream religion:
- 58 percent have favorable attitudes toward Protestantism/Other Christians, 48 percent favorable toward the Catholic religion, 47 percent favorable toward the Jewish religion, 31 percent favorable toward "Christian fundamentalist religions," 20 percent favorable toward the Mormon religion, 19 percent favorable toward Islam, and 8 percent favorable toward Scientology.