Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Many Americans see religious discrimination in U.S. – especially against Muslims

While ideas about religious liberty and tolerance are central to America’s founding and national story, different religious groups – including Catholics, Jews and Mormons – have suffered discrimination in the United States at various points in history. Today, Americans say some religious groups continue to be discriminated against and disadvantaged, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys.

Most Americans say Muslims are subject to discrimination

Most American adults (82%) say Muslims are subject to at least some discrimination in the U.S. today, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March – including a majority (56%) who say Muslims are discriminated against a lot.

Among U.S. Muslims themselves, many say they have experienced specific instances of discrimination, including being treated with suspicion, singled out by airport security or called offensive names, according to a 2017 survey of Muslim Americans.

In this year’s survey, roughly two-thirds of Americans (64%) also say Jews face at least some discrimination in the U.S., up 20 percentage points from the last time this question was asked in 2016. More say Jews face some discrimination than a lot (39% vs. 24%).

Half of Americans, meanwhile, say evangelical Christians suffer at least some discrimination. As with Jews, most people who think evangelicals are discriminated against say they suffer some inequity rather than a lot (32% vs. 18%).

Democrats more likely to see discrimination against Muslims and Jews

There are substantial partisan gaps in views of discrimination against religious groups. For example, Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say Muslims face at least some discrimination in the U.S. (92% vs. 69%). Democrats also are more likely than Republicans to say Jews face discrimination (70% vs. 55%). At the same time, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say evangelicals face discrimination (70% vs. 32%).

Another way to look at discrimination is to try to gauge its practical impact. When asked whether being part of a certain group hurts or helps someone’s “ability to get ahead in our country,” most Americans again see Muslims as being disadvantaged, according to a different Pew Research Center survey conducted in January and February of this year. Indeed, more than six-in-ten U.S. adults (63%) say that being Muslim hurts someone’s chances for advancement in American society at least a little, including 31% who say it hurts their chances a lot.

Substantially smaller shares of Americans say that being Jewish or evangelical is a disadvantage. One-in-five U.S. adults say being Jewish hurts someone’s chances of getting ahead, while 15% say the same about being evangelical. In both cases, slim majorities say being Jewish or evangelical neither helps nor hurts.