Poll: Americans Skeptical of Islam and Arabs

There are some differences between the sexes on these questions. Fifty-two percent of men have an unfavorable view of Islam; that declines to 40 percent of women. One reason: Sixty-six percent of men think Islam has more violent extremists than other religions; fewer women, 51 percent, agree.

There also are some racial differences. Thirty percent of whites, compared with 18 percent of nonwhites, admit to feelings of prejudice against Muslims. Similarly, whites are 11 points more likely than nonwhites to admit to feelings of prejudice against Arabs.

Religion and Politics

Attitudes about Islam are intertwined with both political and religious components. On several measures, as noted, wariness toward Islam peaks among evangelical white Protestants, about 18 percent of the U.S. population. Muslims, by contrast, account for just about 1 percent.

While 46 percent of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam overall, among evangelical white Protestants, it's 61 percent. Likewise, evangelical white Protestants are 12 points more apt to think Islam encourages violence and nine points more apt to say it teaches intolerance. And 36 percent of evangelical white Protestants admit to some feelings of prejudice against Muslims.

Views of Islam, its teachings and its followers are somewhat more positive among Catholics and those with no professed religion. But even among these groups, skepticism is common, as are feelings of prejudice.

Like the white evangelical Protestants who make up part of the party's base, Republicans tend to hold more negative views of Islam. They're more likely than Democrats to think Islam fails to teach tolerance, encourages violence, and contains a disproportionate number of violent extremists.

Correspondingly, Republicans are 14 points more likely than Democrats to have an unfavorable view of Islam; they're also more likely to have some feelings of prejudice against Muslims. Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to admit prejudice toward Arabs.

Views on Islam are generally more favorable among young adults, aged 18 to 29, than among those over 30, with seniors who are least familiar with the religion being the most negative.

Fifty-six percent of those under 30 hold a favorable view of the religion, compared with 43 percent of all adults. Among seniors, favorability sinks to 29 percent. Young adults also are more likely to see Islam as a peaceful religion and say it teaches respect. One in 10 young adults admits some feelings of prejudice against both Arabs and Muslims, compared with 19 percent of those over 30.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 2-5, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

For complete results, click here.

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