Americans' bias against Jews, Muslims linked, poll says

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 21, 2010; A03

A poll about Americans' views on Islam concludes that the strongest predictor of prejudice against Muslims is whether a person holds similar feelings about Jews.

The Gallup poll, released Thursday, also finds that people who report going to religious services more than once a week are less likely to harbor bias against Muslims.

The poll, conducted in the fall, is the latest large-scale survey to find a high level of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a poll in September showing that Muslims are thought to suffer more discrimination than any other U.S. religious group, by a wide margin. Jews were second.

The Gallup poll asked Americans about their views of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism and found that 53 percent see Islam unfavorably.

There is no consistent data over time about Americans' views on Islam or Muslims. Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, said that Americans' attitudes toward Muslims generally seem to be improving but that "changes are not dramatic."

The Pew poll found that Americans' views on whether Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence -- a question Pew first asked after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- have fluctuated dramatically.

In the Gallup poll, respondents who said they feel "a great deal" of prejudice toward Jews are very likely to report feeling the same level of bias toward Muslims.

Mogahed, who is on a board that advises President Obama on faith-based issues, said the Gallup poll was prompted partly by Obama's outreach to Muslim-majority societies and a desire to understand more about what shapes Americans' views on Islam.

In a note accompanying the poll results, Gallup makes the argument that Americans' prejudice against Muslims is at least partly fueled by misinformed beliefs. For example, people who believe Muslims worldwide oppose equal rights for men and women tend to be much more likely to report prejudice against Muslims.

Data from other Gallup interviews that were not part of the most recent poll show that majorities of Muslims in Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among other places, say that women and men should have equal legal rights.

Poll results will be available at at 10 a.m. Thursday.

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