More Americans say that self-described-Muslims who commit violence in the name of their religion are real Muslims than say that self-described-Christians who commit violence are real Christians.
Eighty-three percent said violent people who claim to be Christian are not true Christians while only 48 percent said violent people who claim to be Muslim are not true Muslims.
A Public Religion Research Institute survey asked 2,450 Americans two questions:
"When people claim to be Christian and commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity, do you believe they really are Christian, or not?"
"When people claim to be Muslim and commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, do you believe they really are Muslim, or not?"
The survey was conducted in 2011 but the results were republished on the PRRI website in light of the recent terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on a satirical newspaper in Paris that had mocked Islam. (The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, also mocked other religions, including Christianity.)
Forty-four percent answered that violent people claiming to be Muslim are not really Muslim while only 13 percent answered that violent people claiming to be Christian are not really Christian.
Republicans were more likely than Democrats to attribute Muslim violence to true-Muslims and Christian violence to heretics. Eighty-six percent answered that violence in the name of Christianity is not true to the faith while 55 percent answered that a violent Muslim is true to their faith. For Democrats, the same split was 78 percent/40 percent.
White evangelical protestants had the largest gap of any demographic group. Only 10 percent said that those who commit violence in the name of Christianity are really Christian while 57 percent said that those who commit violence in the name of Islam are truly Muslim.
The issue whether Muslim extremists are behaving consistently with their proclaimed faith was also raised in September by comedian Bill Maher.
In an interview with PBS's Charlie Rose, Maher said: "Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it," Maher responded. "Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second class citizens … Vast numbers of Christians do not believe if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ you should get killed for it. So yes, does ISIS do Khmer Rouge-like activities where they just kill people indiscriminately who aren't just like them? Yes. And would most Muslim people in the world do that or condone that? No."
The survey's margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus two percentage points.