Americans' Dim Views Of Islam Have Gotten A Little Worse

While overall opinions haven't changed much, the intensity of anti-Muslim sentiment has risen.

12/09/2015 03:10 pm ET | Updated Dec 17, 2015

Anti-Islamic sentiments are widespread in the U.S., and have intensified slightly this year, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows.

Since the Paris terror attacks in November, at least 52 anti-Islamic incidents have been recorded in Canada and the U.S. -- including a severed pig's being head thrown outside a Philadelphia mosque, a brutal attack against a Muslim store owner in New York and passengers of "Middle Eastern descent" being removed from more than one flight after fellow travelers claimed they looked suspicious.

The recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California -- and Republican front-runner Donald Trump's subsequent call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" -- further stoked worries about rising Islamophobia. 

"It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently," President Barack Obama said Sunday in a national address, before Trump released his statement. "Because when we travel down that road, we lose."

Just 17 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Islam, according to the poll, which was also conducted after the San Bernardino shooting but prior to Trump's comments. Fifty-eight percent have an unfavorable view of the religion, while 25 percent are unsure.

The results are similar to those of a March HuffPost/YouGov poll, in which 21 percent viewed Islam favorably, 55 percent viewed it unfavorably and one-quarter weren't sure.

Huffington Post

Underlying the apparent lack of change, however, is an uptick in the number of people who now consider themselves strongly anti-Islamic. Thirty-five percent of Americans now say they hold a very unfavorable view of the religion, up 8 points since March.

Huffington Post

The shift is especially pronounced among Republicans and political independents. Fifty-three percent of the GOP and 36 percent of independents now say they view Islam very unfavorably, a 9-point rise among both groups since March.

Huffington Post

The vehement opposition to Islam among a now-majority of Republicans dovetails with the frequency with which anti-Islam rhetoric has occurred in the GOP's presidential primary campaign.

While it's impossible to gauge from the poll numbers whether the sentiment is driving candidates to further extremes or vice versa, it has so far proven to be a successful tactic -- former neurosurgeon Ben Carson's argument that Muslims shouldn't serve as president gave him a temporary bounce in the polls, while Trump's previous anti-Muslim comments have only solidified his lead.

If there's any countermeasure to such antipathy, it may simply be getting to know Muslim Americans. People who have Muslim co-workers are 21 points more likely than those who don't to hold a positive view of Islam, while those with Muslim friends are 18 points more likely.

Some Americans, at least, would be open to that dialogue. Thirty-six percent say they'd be interested in learning more about Islam, including 27 percent of those who currently hold a negative view of the religion.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Dec. 5-7 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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