Muslims across the United States are more likely to reject violence than other Americans, but they’re also experiencing violence and retaliation on a broad level, according to a sweeping new survey on Muslim life in the United States.
The survey, released Tuesday, indicates that rising Islamophobia has left U.S. Muslims in a precarious place, worried about the future under President Trump’s leadership. Conducted by the non-profit Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) and co-authored by ISPU Director of Research Dalia Mogahed and ISPU Fellow Youssef Chouhoud, the annual poll surveys a number of faith groups including Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, white Evangelicals, and unaffiliated individuals.
The survey measures attitudes and policy preferences in addition to tracking key trends. This year, the poll also included a new component, an Islamophobia Index developed along with Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative that measures anti-Muslim prejudice across the country, using “an additive scale ranging from 0 to 100…(with 0 as the lowest level of prejudice and 100 as the highest).”
Among the most striking findings is the extent to which Muslims condemn violence while simultaneously documenting the animosity of their neighbors and government.
Three quarters (76 percent) of U.S. Muslims overwhelmingly reject violence against civilians, compared to 59 percent of the general public. When it comes to targeting and killing civilians, only 12 percent of Muslims say such actions “can ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ be justified” (for the general public, those numbers are at 14 percent).
At the same time, Muslims disproportionately report religious discrimination, with 61 percent of respondents saying they had encountered Islamophobia. Sixty-two percent of Muslims either strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “most people associate negative stereotypes with my faith identity.” Muslim women were particularly vulnerable: 75 percent said they had experienced religious bias, compared with 40 percent of women overall.
The community is also internalizing stigma.
“One of the most important and surprising findings we got in this study was the degree to which Muslims have themselves internalized negative stereotypes about their own community,” said Mogahed, ISPU director of research. “That does underscore the power of the media and political rhetoric that day in and day out paints a narrative of Muslims in a certain way, that Muslims themselves are not immune to adopting that idea.”
Thirty percent of Muslims agreed with the sentiment that their community was “more prone to negative behavior than other people” — 13 percent or fewer of all other faith groups answered similarly. Jews and Muslims collectively were the communities most likely to feel ashamed of violence committed by their peers, at 59 and 62 percent respectively.
But Muslims are also becoming more politically engaged. Only 27 percent of respondents indicated they were satisfied with the country’s current trajectory under Trump and a mere 13 percent said they approved of the president’s performance. That seems to be translating to electoral action: 75 percent are registered to vote, a 7 percent spike over last year’s numbers — which itself marks an 8 percent rise from 2016.
The survey indicates that Muslims and non-Muslims alike support civil rights more broadly and reject efforts like the president’s travel ban, also referred to as the “Muslim ban,” due to its outsized impact on travelers and immigrants from Muslim-majority nations. Sixty-three percent of respondents did not support the surveillance of mosques and an overwhelming majority of all groups “want to live in a country where no one is targeted for their religious identity.”
Rising hate crimes targeting minority communities have been documented across the United States over the course of the past two years. Many have linked that phenomenon to the rhetoric espoused by Trump, both during his candidacy and presidency. Muslims, Jews, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community have all reported numerous incidents of violence.
In addition to being singled out by Trump, Muslims have also suffered the consequences of warped media coverage. A separate study conducted by ISPU and released earlier this month found that perpetrators viewed as Muslim received twice the amount of print attention overall when their acts were carried out as effectively as those orchestrated by non-Muslims. Unsuccessful incidents generated seven-and-a-half times as much coverage.
Legal consequences also differed dramatically. ISPU found that prosecutors sought sentences three times longer for Muslim perpetrators and that Muslims ultimately received sentences that were on average four times as long as their counterparts.
But ISPU’s latest survey indicates that environment has yet to truly shift how U.S. Muslims see themselves. Most still identify strongly with both their faith — Muslims were as likely as Protestants and white Evangelicals, and more likely than Jews, Catholics, and other groups, to say their faith is important to how they view themselves.
They also still associate strongly with the country where they live: the study notes that “the vast majority of Americans of all backgrounds studied say being an American is important to the way they think of themselves.”
“A higher religious identity correlates with a higher American identity among all Americans, especially Muslims,” the study concludes.