Friday, July 01 2016

Poll finds partisan differences on attitudes towards Muslims

The Guardian has reported on the results of a poll carried out by polling agency YouGov on voter perceptions of conflict and coexistence between ‘the West and the Muslim world’. The survey also questioned respondents about the anti-Islam film made in the US, ‘Innocence of Muslims’. According to the poll, ‘an overwhelming majority of Republican voters in the United States regard the west and Islam as being embroiled in "a fundamental conflict which only one side can win".

The YouGov poll results are summarised below:

West-Muslim conflict or coexistence

The poll appears to indicate slightly higher levels of hostility to Islam in the UK than in the US with 43% of Britons agreeing with the statement - ‘There is a fundamental conflict [between the West and the Muslim world]; in the end one or other must prevail’, compared to 39% of Americans. Similarly, 41% of British respondents agreed that ‘It is possible for the West and Muslim world to co-exist in peace’ compared with 47% of Americans.

Opinions on West-Muslim world coexistence are divided along partisan lines both in the US and the UK. In the US, 64% of Republicans perceive a fundamental conflict between the West and the Muslim world, whilst a slightly higher percentage of Democrats, 68%, express the opposite view that the West and the Muslim world can coexist in peace.

Partisan divisions are less manifest in the UK. 40% of Conservatives, 48% of Labour voters and 58% of Lib Dems agree that the West and the Muslim world can coexist. On the other end of the scale, 49% of Conservatives, 39% of Labour voters and 26% of Lib Dems believe that there is a fundamental conflict between the West and the Muslim world.

Muslim support for anti-American violence

A higher percentage of Britons (55%) than Americans (53%) believe that the violence ensuing from the anti-Islam cartoon saga was supported by a minority rather than a majority of Muslims.

Again, opinion in both the UK and the US is divided along partisan lines. 59% of Republicans agreed that the attacks had the support of the majority of Muslims compared to 18% of Democrats. 69% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans took the opposite view that the violence was supported by a minority of Muslims.

Similarly, in the UK a left-right divide is apparent with 41% of Conservatives, 34% of Labour and 23% of Lib Dems perceiving the violent protests to have majority Muslim support and 55% of Conservatives, 57% of Labour and 70% of Lib Dem supporters holding the opposite view.

Financial support for Arab Spring countries

On the question of whether voters think that governments should provide financial aid to the countries of the ‘Arab Spring’, 17% of Britons and 20% of Americans overall agreed that aid should be provided, whilst 69% of Britons and 58% of Americans believe it should not. In the US, this was marked by a significant divide along party lines with 81% of Republicans of the view that aid should not be provided compared to just 33% of Democrats.

The results give an interesting picture of perceptions of Muslims in the UK and the US and partisan variations on these opinions, particularly in light of a recent report by the Pew Research Centre which showed that religious intolerance has increased in both the US and the UK. The report by Pew also noted an increase in anti-Muslim sentiments in both countries. The partisan differences also correlate with divergent policies on immigration, security and foreign aid by parties on the left and right of the political spectrum. With regard to the US, a report on the Islamophobia network in America, Fear Inc. detailed a number of members and representatives of the Republican Party who have tried to peddle Islamophobia, as illustrated for example in the attempts several months ago by several Republicans to smear Hilary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, as well as detailing Islamophobes who have tried to influence Republican Party policy.

Looking at the UK specifically, the results of the YouGov poll are sadly not surprising given the results of previous research such as the British Social Attitudes Survey (see here and here), which illustrates hostility to Islam in Britain. The indications that hostilities towards Islam are slightly higher in the UK than in the US are also interesting given that both countries have organised and allied anti-Islam movements and have seen attacks aimed at Muslim communities in recent years. Moreover, that there exist generally negative attitudes towards providing financial support for the Arab Spring countries comes as no surprise given that right-of-centre papers such as the Daily Mail, which also boasts being the most popular online news site in the world, cover so negatively Britain’s foreign aid contribution.

The results of the YouGov poll can be viewed here.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 12:07

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