Anyone wondering why Rep. Michele Bachmann would launch a witch hunt against Muslims or why the Republican Party would add a plank to its platform opposing Shariah law need look no further than a new poll conducted by the Arab American Institute.
The poll, released today, asked Americans for their views on various religious groups, as well as on Arabs and Arab-Americans. It also asked respondents how confident they would be that a Muslim or Arab-American holding a position of influence in government could do their job without letting “ethnic loyalty … influence their decision-making.”
The results are split sharply along partisan lines. Overall, Republican voters hold strongly negative views of Muslims, with 57 percent saying they view them unfavorably and just 26 saying they view them favorably – more than double. The numbers are similar for Arabs, whom Republican respondents view negatively by a slightly smaller margin of 26 percent, 53 to 27 percent. When asked about “Muslim Americans” and “Arab Americans,” the numbers improved slightly, with a 12 and 15 percent net unfavorable rating, respectively.
By contrast, Democrats held favorable views of these groups by margins of at least 20-35 percent in all four cases. The view of Muslims and Arabs among Democrats was still less positive than other religious groups included in the survey, however, underscoring a resilient problem of post-9/11 America. Still, Democrats gave no group a net negative rating, while Republicans gave negative ratings to Muslims, Arabs, Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans.
On the question of Muslims and Arabs in the government, the results were similar. While about twice as many Democrats said they were confident a Muslim-American could do his or her job and that ethnic loyalty would not interfere, the results were flipped among Republicans. A slim majority of 51 percent said ethnic loyalty would trump job responsibility, while 25 percent said they were confident Muslim-Americans in government could do their jobs.
Update: See also James Zogby, “US hate campaigns against Muslims and Arabs show results”, The National, 26 August 2012