A Fascinating Look at the Political Views of Muslim Americans

A new Gallup poll shows that they are more likely than Christians or Jews to object to the targeting and killing of civilians

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An arm of the Gallup organization based in the United Arab Emirates has just published, in partnership with their U.S. based colleagues, the results of a major polling that compares the attitudes of Muslim Americans to Americans of other faiths. Its title is "Examining U.S. Muslims' Political, Social, and Spiritual Engagement 10 Years After September 11," and its most attention grabbing finding is the fact that Muslim Americans are more likely than Christians or Jews to believe that targeting and killing civilians is never justified, whether it is done by the military or an individual. Put another way, Christians and Jews are more comfortable with civilians being targeted and killed by a wide margin.

Here is the distribution of opinion when the military is doing the killing:

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And the results when an individual or small group of people is targeting and killing civilians:

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Am I alone in being horrified by the percentage of Americans who are sometimes okay with efforts to "target and kill" civilians?

Other fascinating findings abound.

Are Muslims in this country sympathetic to Al Qaeda? 92 percent of Muslims say no, along with 75 percent of the nonreligious, 70 percent of Jews, 63 percent of Catholics, and 56 percent of Protestants. Muslim Americans are less likely than other religious groups to have confidence in the military (70 percent have confidence, 28 percent lack it), and more likely to think that the wars in Iraq (83 percent) and Afghanistan (47 percent) were mistakes. They also most skeptical of federal law enforcement - 60 percent have confidence in the FBI, whereas among Christians and Jews at least 75 percent have faith in the bureau. And 48 percent say they've experienced racial or religious discrimination in the last year, compared to 31 percent of Mormons, 25 percent of the nonreligious, 21 percent of Jews, 20 percent of Catholics, and 18 percent of Protestants. (Along with Jews, Muslims also felt least respected, by a wide margin, when practicing their religion in public.)

With what aspects of their identity do Muslim Americans most strongly identify? It's a question best answered in visual format:

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Muslims were evenly divided on the question of whether their coreligionists were more obligated than other groups to speak out against terrorism: 49 percent said yes with the same percentage saying no. A majority of all groups say Muslim Americans are loyal to the United States: 93 percent of Muslim Americans think so, along with 80 percent of Jews and 69 percent of the nonreligious, but only a disappointing 59 percent of Catholics and 56 percent of Protestants. Jews were also most likely to agree with Muslims that they face prejudice in America.

Muslims are least likely to believe that it is possible to profile a terrorist "based on gender, age, ethnicity, or other demographic traits," despite the fact that terrorists are extremely likely to be male, and very unlikely to be children or elderly.

Do a majority of Muslim Americans think that any national Muslim organization represents their interests? Nope:

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There is, finally, the question of why people in Muslim countries have an unfavorable view of the United States. A majority of Muslim Americans say it's based on actions that the U.S. has taken. Everyone else thinks that people in those countries have been propagandized into disliking us:


Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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