The public continues to express conflicted views of Islam. Favorable opinions of Islam have declined since 2005, but there has been virtually no change over the past year in the proportion of Americans saying that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.
As was the case a year ago, slightly more people say the Islamic religion does not encourage violence more than other religions (42%) than say that it does (35%).
Amid controversy over the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center, more Americans agree with those who object to the building of the center than with the supporters of the project (51% to 34%). At the same time, 62% say that Muslims should have the same rights as other religious groups to build houses of worship in their local communities; just 25% say local communities should be able to block mosques in their area if they do not want them.
The new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Aug. 19-22 among 1,003 adults, finds that opinions about Islam are less favorable than in the summer of 2005. Currently, 30% say they have a favorable opinion of Islam while slightly more (38%) have an unfavorable view; nearly a third (32%) offer no opinion. In 2005, slightly more expressed a favorable opinion of Islam than an unfavorable opinion (by 41% to 36%).
As in previous Pew Research surveys, most Americans say they know little about the Muslim religion. Currently, 55% say they do not know very much (30%) or know nothing at all (25%) about the Muslim religion and its practices; 35% say they know some about the religion while just 9% say they know a great deal. These numbers are largely unchanged from 2007.
Similarly, there has been little change in the percentage of Americans who say they know someone who is Muslim. In the new survey, 41% say they are acquainted with someone who is Muslim; comparable percentages said they knew someone who is Muslim last year and in 2007.
The survey is a joint effort of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Both organizations are sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues.