As of this morning, the governors of 27 states — all Republican but one — have said they are opposed to letting Syrian refugees resettle in their states, citing terrorism concerns. Some GOP lawmakers and presidential contenders have even called for a ban on letting any Syrian Muslim refugees into the United States.
The political calculus behind these gestures becomes apparent when you look at new polling data released today by the Public Religion Research Institute, which finds that a majority of Americans — 56 percent — say that the values of Islam are "at odds" with America's values and way of life. This is up significantly from 2011, when only 47 percent of Americans said this.
"Americans' perceptions of Islam have turned sharply more negative over the past few years," the report finds. Republicans (76 percent) are especially likely to say Islam is at odds with American values, as are white evangelicals (73 percent) and white working-class Americans (67 percent), two important Republican voting blocs.
The survey was conducted before the attacks in Paris last week. But still, if you're a red-state Republican governor it might seem politically expedient to signal your opposition to letting Muslim refugees from a war-torn country resettle in your communities. Many of your constituents would probably agree with you.
Beyond that top-line expression of unease with Islamic values, previous polling by PRRI has shown that American discomfort with Islam extends to a variety of realms of life. In 2011, for instance, 3 in 10 Americans said American Muslims want to establish Sharia law, 4 in 10 were uncomfortable with Muslim elementary school teachers, and nearly half said they'd be uncomfortable if a mosque were built near their home.
So for Republican politicians, there appears to be little political downside to taking a stand against Muslim immigration.