The researchers found that Muslims perceive significant bias against them. Seventy-five percent of respondents said there’s “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. Sixty percent of Muslims—and 68 percent of Muslim women—said media coverage of Muslims is unfair. And when respondents were asked about the most important problems facing U.S. Muslims today, the most popular answers included “discrimination, racism, [and] prejudice,” “Muslims [being] viewed as terrorists,” and “Trump’s attitudes [and] policies toward Muslims.” In general, American Muslims are not fans of the president. Three-quarters of the respondents said Trump is “unfriendly” toward Muslims in the U.S., and 65 percent disapprove of what he’s doing in office—slightly less than the percentage of Muslims who disapproved of George W. Bush on a 2007 version of this survey.
It’s true that a lot of people seem suspicious of Muslims. Half of Americans say Islam is not part of “mainstream American society,” and 41 percent say Islam encourages violence more than other faiths. These numbers are strongest among Republicans and white evangelicals: More than half of each group said there’s a great deal or fair amount of extremism among U.S. Muslims, for example, compared to 35 percent of all Americans who said the same thing. Sixty-five percent of Republicans and 72 percent of white evangelicals also said Islam and democracy naturally conflict. (Interestingly, 30 percent of Muslims said the same thing.)
But the report reveals other layers of Muslim life that complicate a straightforward narrative of victimhood. Almost half of respondents said someone had reached out to express support for their religion within the past year, compared to 37 percent in 2011 and 32 percent in 2007. Admittedly, these performances of allyship and optimism can be fraught; Muslims might prefer seamless acceptance to handshakes and earnestness from well-meaning neighbors.
Muslims are more likely than other Americans to believe that people who work hard can get ahead and succeed; 70 percent said they believe this is true. And 92 percent of Muslims say they’re proud to be Americans—roughly the same as the general public.
Although two-thirds of Muslims identify as Democrats, they may have more in common with other religiously orthodox Americans than secular liberals. Over the past decade, Muslims’ growing acceptance of LGBT people has roughly mirrored trends among Christians, even as both groups have been slower to support homosexuality than the general American public. According to Pew, Christians and Muslims are equally likely to attend worship services weekly and to say religion is important to them.
It’s not clear from this report that concrete experiences of discrimination have become more common under Trump, either. Experiences of most kinds of religious discrimination are roughly flat compared to rates reported in 2007 and 2011, when Pew previously surveyed American Muslims. Nineteen percent of respondents said they’d been called an offensive name in the past year, compared to 22 percent in 2011 and 15 percent in 2007, and the pattern and numbers were roughly similar for Muslims who said they’d been singled out by airport-security officials. Only 10 percent of respondents said they’d been called out by law-enforcement officials in the past year, down from 13 percent in 2011. And 6 percent said they’d been physically threatened or attacked, the same level of physical discrimination reported in 2011. Right now, it’s not possible to verify these reports against data like the FBI’s hate-crime statistics—the only real national system for tracking discrimination against religious minorities—since the Bureau’s data is currently only available through 2015.