Anti-Muslim sentiments fairly commonplace

Substantial minorities of Americans admit to having negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith, and favor using heightened security measures with Muslims as a way to help prevent terrorism. Personally knowing someone who is Muslim – which 41% of Americans say they do – corresponds with more favorable attitudes on these questions. These are they key findings of a July 28-30, 2006 USA Today/Gallup Poll focusing on U.S. attitudes toward Muslims living in the United States.

Americans’ personal discomfort with Muslims is reflected in survey questions dealing with their reaction to being near Muslims in different situations. Nearly one quarter of Americans, 22%, say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbor. Slightly fewer, 18%, say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman flying on the same airplane as themselves, while significantly more – 31% – say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight.

Americans tend to disagree with the notion that Muslims living in the United States are sympathetic to al-Qaeda; still, fewer than half believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States.

Muslims are widely perceived to be committed to their religious beliefs, but this is not necessarily a positive assessment. While 47% believe Muslims are respectful of other religions, nearly as many (40%) disagree. Also, 44% say Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs and a slight majority (52%) say Muslims are not respectful of women.

All of this adds up to a significant number of Americans being willing to admit they harbor at least some feelings of prejudice against Muslims. Nearly four in ten Americans (39%) say they do feel some prejudice while 59% say they don’t.

The array of concerns about Muslims’ loyalty to the United States and religious extremism may also help to explain why about 4 in 10 Americans favor more rigorous security measures for Muslims than those used for other U.S. citizens. This includes requiring Muslims – including those who are U.S. citizens – to carry a special ID, and requiring them to undergo special, more intensive, security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States.

Gallup, 10 August 2006