The fruit of a very, very successful (not to mention relentless) propaganda campaign. “Most in Poll Back Outreach to Muslims,” by Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta for the Washington Post, April 6 (thanks to all who sent this in):
Most Americans think President Obama’s pledge to “seek a new way forward” with the Muslim world is an important goal, even as nearly half hold negative views about Islam and a sizable number say that even mainstream adherents to the religion encourage violence against non-Muslims, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
There is still a broad lack of familiarity with the world’s second-largest religion — 55 percent of those polled said they are without a basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Islam, and most said they do not know anyone who is Muslim. While awareness has increased in recent years, underlying views have not improved.
So 55% have no basic understanding of Islam, and 58% think it is a Religion of Peaceâ„¢ Hmmm.
About half, 48 percent, said they have an unfavorable view of Islam, the highest in polls since late 2001. Nearly three in 10, or 29 percent, said they see mainstream Islam as advocating violence against non-Muslims; although more, 58 percent, said it is a peaceful religion.
Muslims make up about 1 percent of all U.S. adults.
Majorities of Americans with sympathetic and unsympathetic views about Islam said it is important for the president to try to improve U.S. relations with Muslim nations, with those holding more positive views much more likely to call those moves “very important.” In his inaugural address, Obama extended an offer to leaders of unfriendly Muslim nations that the United States “will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Overall, nearly two-thirds said Obama, who arrived yesterday in Ankara, Turkey, will handle the diplomatic mission “about right.” Nearly a quarter, though, said he will probably “go too far.” Nine percent said it is more likely he will not go far enough. […]
Republicans are also more apt than others to hold negative attitudes toward Islam, with six in 10 having unfavorable views, compared with about four in 10 for Democrats and independents. Among conservative Republicans, 65 percent view Islam unfavorably; liberal Democrats, in contrast, are 60 percent positive.
This partisan divide is also apparent on the question of whether mainstream Islam encourages hostility toward non-Muslims, with Republicans about twice as likely as Democrats to say it does. Nearly half of conservative Republicans see centrist Islam as a promoter of violence.
Perceptions of Islam as a peaceful faith are the highest among non-religious Americans, with about two-thirds holding that view. Among Catholics, 60 percent see mainstream Islam as a peaceful faith; it is 55 percent among all Protestants, but drops to 48 percent among white evangelical Protestants.
There are deep divisions in perceptions of Islam between younger and older Americans as well: More than six in 10 younger than 65 said Islam is a peaceful religion, but that drops to 39 percent among seniors.
As in previous surveys, unfamiliarity breeds skepticism: 53 percent of those who profess an understanding of some Islamic teachings view the religion favorably, compared with 31 percent of those who said they do not have that fluency. Those who have such a background are also significantly more likely to see the religion as peaceful. Similar patterns exist for those who know a Muslim. And views of Islam are more positive among those with more formal education….
See? It’s only bigoted, witless knuckle-dragging yahoos who have any problem with Islam. Get a little education, learn a bit about Islam, and you will see its Peacefulness clearly. But note that the 53% only “profess” to be familiar with Islam and “view the religion favorably.” This is all far too vague to be useful to draw any conclusions. After all, Osama bin Laden and company view Islam quite favorably, but also know it is not a Religion of Peace. And what constitutes familiarity? Did the 54% read books by Karen Armstrong and John Esposito and think they know something about Islam as a result?
And anyway, what about those who know a bit about Islam but aren’t convinced it is a Religion of Peace? Will they be invited in to the public debate? What do you think?