The results of the survey, which was completed on Aug. 15-16 and conducted on 1,052 people who answered the survey questions online, were posted on the Internet. The survey found that Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans and American Muslims have the lowest favorable and highest unfavorable ratings among the groups covered. Fourteen religious groups were included in the survey.
Forty-one percent of respondents expressed an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, 39 percent expressed an unfavorable opinion of Arabs, 33 percent an unfavorable opinion of Muslim Americans and 31 percent of Arab Americans.
The survey found that Muslims were the only group with a net unfavorable rating. The researchers also said, “Note that one in five Americans were either unfamiliar with or not sure of their attitudes toward these communities.”
Sikhs and Mormons also fare poorly compared to other groups, but one in four Americans said they were either “unfamiliar” with or “not sure” about Sikhs.
Republicans tend to have higher negative attitudes toward Muslims, and in fact other groups, as well as older people. “Democrats and Obama voters give no group a net negative rating. Republicans and Romney voters only give strong negative ratings to Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans and American Muslims,” the Arab American Institute noted in its report on the survey.
The researchers also noted, “There is a deep generational divide, which is reflected in a partisan divide,” and “Younger Americans (18-25) rate Arabs and Muslims up to 17 points higher than the older generation. They also rate Arab Americans and American Muslims higher.”
Interestingly, the survey also found that younger respondents rated Catholics and various Protestant groups covered in the survey almost 20 points lower than did older Americans, classified as people who are 65 and above in the survey.
Not only age and political inclination but racial background also influences attitudes toward Muslim groups, the survey found. “Favorable attitudes toward Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans and American Muslims are significantly higher among African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.”
In response to the question “If a Muslim American were to attain an important position of influence in government, would you feel confident that person would be able to do the job, or would you feel that their religion would influence their decision-making?” 38 percent of respondents said they were confident they could do their job, while 38 percent said their ethnicity would influence their decisions. Twenty-three percent said “Not sure,” indicating that 61 percent of respondents were not confident that a Muslim American could do their job without religion getting in the way.
In comments about these findings, the researchers noted: “Voters, as a whole, are divided as to whether Arab Americans and American Muslims, if appointed to a government post, could do the job without their ethnicity or religion influencing their work. Again, there is a deep partisan divide on this question.”
Party preferences also influenced attitudes regarding the question about the possibility of a Muslim American being in an important public office. Researchers said, “By a two-to-one ratio, Democrats and Obama voters are confident that Arab Americans and American Muslims could do the job, but a strong majority of Republicans and Romney voters fear that their ethnicity or religion of members of these communities would influence their work.”