Author: Steven Rosenfeld
Democrats and Americans under age 35 are much more open to accepting Syrian war refugees and are much less Islamphobic than Republicans and older Americans, a new national poll finds, underscoring the country’s fear-based partisan divides.
Seventy-four percent of Democrats would accept Syrian refugees, while 82 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independent voters would not, a Quinnipiac University poll reported this week. Similarly, 79 percent of Democrats reject Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the country, while 51 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independent voters support it. Tellingly, 84 percent of people under age 35 also reject Trump’s ban.
Partisan differences on Islam and Muslims are not new, as other national pollsters like Pew Research Center found. However, what’s striking about the Quinnipiac results is that along with Republicans’ widespread distrust of Muslims and stated fears of Islamic fundamentalists leading terrorist attacks in America, Republicans are much more willing to go to war with ground troops in the Middle East to counter terrorism.
Republicans are least tolerant toward Muslims, the Quinnipiac poll found, echoing Pew’s findings from a year ago. For example, 47 percent of Republicans said mainstream Islam “encourages violence against non-Muslims,” Quinnipiac found, while only 13 percent of Democrats agreed with that assertion. Notably, 74 percent of people under 35 thought that mainstream Islam was a “peaceful” religion. Adding to that, 63 percent of Republicans thought there would be a terrorist attack with large loss of life in the near future on U.S. soil, compared to 30 percent of Democrats. Fifty-one percent of independents also predicted an attack, affirming that most self-described independents are actually disaffected Republicans.
While comparable numbers of Democrats (57 percent) and Republicans (54 percent) thought there was greater danger of an attack from “homegrown jihadists” rather than Syrian refugees, 80 percent of Democrats said that President Obama was taking the threat from ISIS “seriously enough,” while 89 percent of Republicans said he was not.
That split led to predictable partisan differences on the use of military force abroad, with 75 percent of Republicans favoring sending ground troops to Syria and Iraq and only 41 percent of Democrats favoring that approach. About the same number of Republicans said fighting ISIS with overwhelming military force would “be more likely to help end the terrorist threat,” while 49 percent of Democrats said it would do exactly the opposite.
While Quinnipiac’s poll found that Republicans are most likely to be more Islamophobic, the research from Pew suggested that Democrats were still wary.
“Asked to rate a series of religious groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ from zero (the coldest) to 100 (the warmest), Republicans gave Muslims an average of 33—comparable to their average rating for atheists (34) and significantly lower than any other religious group,” Pew reported last January. “Democrats’ average rating for Muslims was a more neutral 47. Still, Democrats’ ratings for Muslims were lower than for most other religious groups. Among eight groups tested, only atheists (46 average rating) and Mormons (44) rated as low.”
Besides age, with younger people being more positively predisposed toward Muslims and Islam, Pew reported that one’s religion also was a predictive factor. “For instance, we found that no other religious group is cooler toward Muslims than are white evangelical Protestants, who give Muslims an average rating of 30,” Pew said. “Compared with other groups, older Americans and white evangelicals both tend to affiliate heavily with the Republican Party. Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to express strong concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism, and to see Islam as a religion that may encourage violence.”
But beyond the partisan, religious and age differences that account for varying degrees of Islamophobia, Quinnipiac’s poll also found that half of Americans from all parties don’t want to take chances with Syrian refugees—even if they also said homegrown threats were more pressing. “Voters oppose 51-43 percent accepting Syrian refugees into the country, but they also oppose 66-27 percent ‘banning people who are Muslim from entering the U.S.,” the pollsters reported.
“American voters are making a distinction between Syrian refugees and Muslims in general,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “A bare majority says keep the Syrians out, but an overwhelming majority rejects proposals to ban all Muslims from our shores.”
But make no mistake, the most Islamophobic Americans are self-declared Republican and independent voters, both Quinnipiac and Pew have found and confirmed.