January 29, 2015

The political divide on views toward Muslims and Islam

republicans democrats feelings towards muslimsHow much does politics factor into Americans’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam?

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014 shows that people who identify as Republicans or say they lean toward the Republican Party have more negative views of Muslims than do their Democratic counterparts.

Asked to rate a series of religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from zero (the coldest) to 100 (the warmest), Republicans gave Muslims an average of 33 – comparable to their average rating for atheists (34) and significantly lower than any other religious group.

Democrats’ average rating for Muslims was a more neutral 47. Still, Democrats’ ratings for Muslims were lower than for most other religious groups. Among eight groups tested, only atheists (46 average rating) and Mormons (44) rated as low.

As for American Muslims, they aren’t feeling much warmth from the GOP. A separate, 2011 survey found that 15% of Muslims said that they see the Republican Party as friendly toward their community while 48% said they are unfriendly. By contrast, 46% of Muslims said the Democratic Party is friendly toward them and only 7% said they are unfriendly.

Party affiliation is not the only factor that correlates with differing views toward Muslims and Islam. Younger U.S. adults of all ideological stripes feel more warmly toward Muslims than do older Americans. On the feeling thermometer, those ages 65 and older gave Muslims an average rating of 32 – they don’t rate any group more negatively – while Americans ages 18-29, on average, rated Muslims more positively, at 49.

One’s own religious affiliation also is a factor. For instance, we found that no other religious group is cooler toward Muslims than are white evangelical Protestants, who give Muslims an average rating of 30.

Compared with other groups, older Americans and white evangelicals both tend to affiliate heavily with the Republican Party.

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to express strong concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism, and to see Islam as a religion that may encourage violence.

In September, a Pew Research Center survey found that 82% of Republicans are “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 60% of political independents and 51% of Democrats. Similarly, two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers, compared with 47% of independents and 42% of Democrats.

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Muslims and Islam, Muslim Americans

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Happy Trails2 years ago

    It’s surprising that Republicans are not more supportive of Muslims when you consider that Muslim values align more closely with the Right than the Left. Islam supports traditional marriage and considers homosexuality a sin. Abortion, public nudity (naked bike rides, nude beaches), adultery, pornography, even oral sex are all forbidden. The Quran says nothing in support of separation of church and state either. You would think the Left would be concerned about an influx of voters who will oppose Liberal ideology. I’m just waiting for the first Muslim baker to refuse to bake a gay wedding cake!

  2. anon2 years ago

    What about independents–voters who don’t affiliate with any party?

    1. Michael Lipka2 years ago

      When asked in a follow-up question which party they “lean toward,” most independents say they lean toward one or the other of the two major parties. In analyses like this, we combine the “leaners” with the partisans – so the Republican category includes both Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party, while the Democratic category includes Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party.

      Thanks for your comment,
      Michael Lipka

  3. Irreligious2 years ago

    Both the parties devalue atheists at their own peril.

  4. Doreen2 years ago

    Where are mainstream Protestant Christians? There is a broad spectrum of mainstream Protestant Christians who are neither Catholic obviously, being Protestant, nor evangelical. How are they viewed by Democrats and Republicans as well as by different age groups, and how do their views towards Muslims compare to that of Evangelical Christians? I suspect but would be interested to see the data that more liberal Protestant Christians would have a much “warmer” view of Muslims and atheists than Evangelical Christians.

  5. Unknown2 years ago

    David Woolmer,
    Please read the Quran correctly front cover to back before attacking the words of the Quran. You would only understand that Islam is not a bad religion if you went to a sheikh. Thank you for sharing your weak knowledge of Islam. It is very clear that you lack a lot of knowledge.

  6. David Woolmer2 years ago

    Seeing that none of the world’s Islamic states has ever signed up to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights

    should be a loud warning to the entire non-Muslim world. The Qur’an is replete with sura( chapters) full of verses calling for death and destruction of non-muslims-Surat Muhammad 47,verse 4 “So when you meet those who disbelieve strike their necks until when you have inflicted slaughter on them”.Shari’a law encompasses every single aspect of living one’s life-sex,diet,finance,legal issues, marital issues, treatment of women(generally detrimental to them) and commands all its followers to SUBMIT to Allah. There is no word “love” in the Qur’an in direct contrast to the literally hundreds of mentions in the Holy Bible. One should always remember that the word “muslim” means one who submits and al-silm the root word for Islam means submission.

  7. carol carruth3 years ago

    Interesting data. It certainly supports what I have personally perceived. I am a progressive independent living in Alabama. I find myself dismayed at the strident negativity about Muslims that I experience here. Also difficult is my experience of many personal friends that I have known since we were all “liberal hippies” together, who have become extremely conservative and even hateful toward Muslims, the poor, Hispanics, etc. and advocating warlike interventions by the US at every turn. I never could have imagined this dramatic change in individuals I have known for decades. The only consistent among them is becoming Evangelical Christians. I find this very disturbing, as I do not feel that these attitudes are in any way consistent with the message of Christianity, and I struggle to relate to these friends that I have known and loved for so long.

    1. David Woolmer2 years ago

      carol carruth

      Muhammad was the Prophet of Allah and can rightly be considered as one of those whom our Lord Jesus Christ warned us about “Beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves”(St.Matthew 7 v 15). As Muhammad who all pious muslims are commanded to follow absolutely was a pedophile,a misogynist,a mass murderer,took sex slaves, I and a vast number of Christians have every reason to be terrified of a religion/ideology that COMMANDS its followers “So when you meet those who disbelieve, strike at their necks until when you have inflicted slaughter on them”Surat(chapter)47 v 4.

      Interesting to note that the word “love” never appears in the Qur’an but does hundreds of times in the Holy Bible.

    2. Christopher Bailey2 years ago

      Don’t worry too much about your friends, Carol. They’re just angry, that’s all. People tend to exaggerate when they’re outraged. If you want to relate to them, just consider that they’re outraged by different things to yourself. Which is not to say that the things which outrage them are not, in themselves, outrageous, – but that we’re all primed to have stronger emotional reactions to certain things which we develop strong feelings about.

      I suspect your friends are either outraged by the ‘them/us’ human instinct, where it is natural to feel aggrieved by those who injure ‘us’, and to feel an especial hostility to those within ‘our’ group who identify more with ‘them’, – or they are outraged because of one or more things closely associated with international Islamic conservatism.

      For example, many of those most associated with the denounciation of “Islamo-fascism” are either gay or bisexual, or feel strongly about sexual freedom.

      Then again, evangelical Christianity is quite closely associated with anger about real world issues, and with patriotism, so if your friends hang out with people of particular views, it is inevitable that those views will rub off, at least to some extent.

      So, just think to yourself “There but for the Grace of God…”, so to speak, and argue with your friends, but don’t fall out of love with them.

  8. Justin3 years ago

    I think it would be interesting to see how the results would differ if “Protestant” or “Christian” (though many people see Catholics as Christians) were used in place of “Evangelical Christian” since some people seem to view Evangelical Christians as far-right Republicans, particularly after the 2000 elections.

  9. SparksinTexas3 years ago

    Might break down Republicans by those who watch FoxNews or listen to conservative talk radio vs those who abstain or listen to more liberal media. What you hear the most often is what you are most likely to believe.

  10. Jayson Rex3 years ago

    Democrats are usually afraid of confronting any and all enemies of the U.S. As it happens, it is a matter of facing reality: the only enemy U.S., Europe and the rest of the Free World is currently facing is Islam.
    Many try to sub-divide Islam and various “categories”, such as: Moderates = 99,99999%, Extremists = 0.00001%, Terrorists = 0,00000%.
    Maybe Pew Research should analyze, carefully and in-depth, what citizens throughout the Free World truly think about Islam – not the ‘politically inclined’ Americans, a totally meaningless study.

    1. Jay3 years ago

      Yeah, Pew should only publish things that are in line with the things you already believe, not try to produce objective content!

  11. Sallie Park3 years ago

    I think it would be interesting to also ask the level of education (non-evangelical vs evangelical) of the respondents, as to whether or not that was also a factor as to where on the scale of like or dislike a person voted. For example, would a college or more education tend to lead to a more favorable answer.

    1. Marwan Jabbar3 years ago

      It would be interesting to compare the results to the respondents’ knowledge about Islam and the Koran. The level of their general education won’t tell us anything useful.

    2. Michael Lipka3 years ago


      Thanks for your comment. Responses sorted by level of education and other factors can be seen here: pewforum.org/files/2014/07/Detai…

      Michael Lipka

  12. Jean Sterner3 years ago

    I wish there were some way to quantify or determine the intelligence of a large sampling of Americans of the two major political parties. Watching the “man on the street” quizzing passersby has piqued everybody’s interest. Can’t you guys figure out how to do that? Wouldn’t dare use IQ, but there must be a way. Maybe just years/quality of education?

  13. Jaylani Adam3 years ago

    It is interesting that you mention that whether Southerners are or have negative views towards Muslims, not to mention they are conservative and lean towards Republican Party and whether people in West Coast and Northeast states are or have positive views towards Muslims.
    Good article but needs to give more numbers about how Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Roman Catholics, Jews, and also non-Muslim Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics view Muslims and Islam.

    1. Jaylani Adam3 years ago

      Sorry, I meant to say “that you didn’t mention….”. Just a typo.

    2. Jayson Rex3 years ago

      You are 1000% right “Jaylani Adam”.