More than three-quarters of U.S. Muslims approve of President Obama’s job performance and 64 percent say he is “friendly” toward Muslim Americans, according to a rare study of public opinion among one of the nation’s smallest but most high-profile religious groups.
The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted this spring and summer, also finds that Muslims hold more positive attitudes toward U.S. anti-terrorism policies even as there has been no letup in reports of discrimination since 2007.
In addition to holding overwhelmingly positive views toward Obama, Muslims are also more likely to know Obama is not a Muslim than the overall public; 55 percent of Muslims correctly identify Obama as a Christian, compared with 34 percent of all adults in an August 2010 Pew poll. The higher knowledge about Obama’s faith comes despite Muslims paying less attention to politics and government than other Americans.
In contrast to views of Obama, 48 percent of U.S. Muslims say the GOP is “unfriendly” to them, while 15 percent call it friendly. This continues negative views of the last Republican president. Fully 70 percent of American Muslims identify as Democrats or lean to ward the Democratic Party, more so than the rest of the country in Pew data.
The change from Bush to Obama may be linked to more positive views of U.S. anti-terrorism policies. Fully 43 percent of Muslims now see the “U.S. effort to combat terrorism” as a sincere effort to reduce international terrorism, up from 26 percent in 2007. Almost as many, 41 percent, now say government efforts are not sincere.
Over half of Muslims continue to say government policies single out Muslims for increased surveillance (52 percent say this), and upwards of one in five Muslims report people acting suspicious of them, calling them offensive names or being singled out by airport security in the past year; all equal to or higher than in the 2007 survey. In addition, 81 percent of Muslims say they paid at least “a little” attention to the controversy over housing an Islamic Center near the World Trade Center in New York City last year.
While perceiving similar levels of harassment today as they did four years ago, slightly more Muslims (37 percent) say that someone has expressed support for them personally over the past year than said so in Pew’s 2007 survey (32 percent).
The increased trust in government’s handling of anti-terrorism policy also arrives despite hardship associated with the economic recession. Fewer Muslims report owning a home than in 2007 (and they own at much lower rates than other Americans), and more than four in 10 report a household member being out of a job in the past year.
Another potential reason for growing trust in anti-terrorism policies is an increasingly negative stance toward al Qaeda. While 68 percent of U.S. Muslims held the terrorist group in a negative light in 2007, that’s climbed to 81 percent today, including 70 percent who view the group “very unfavorably.” About 5 percent have a favorable view of Al Qaeda.
The full report features an in-depth look at the American Muslim community including social values, religious beliefs and practices, assimilation in the United States and much more.