Survey Finds Americans Connect Muslim Extremists to Islam More Often Than in Christian Case

Farhan Khan (C), brother-in-law of San Bernardino shooting suspect Syed Farook, speaks at the Council on American-Islamic Relations during a news conference in Anaheim, California, December 2, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)

A major new survey on religion and security opinions in America has found that almost twice as many respondents are willing to link Muslim extremists with Islam than Christian extremists with Christianity.

The December 2015 Public Religion Research Institute/ Religion News Survey also found that Americans are largely divided on whether Islamic values are at odds with American values – though admitting they know little about Muslims in the first place.

Thirty seven percent of those who participated in the poll said that they believe a person who commits an act of violence in the name of Islam is really a Muslim. At the same time, only 19 percent said the same if the person claims to be a Christian.

The survey, conducted from Dec. 2-6, 2015 on 1,003 adults, and holding a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence, took a look at a wide range of issues concerning America, from terrorism to the Islamic faith.

In a separate survey question, about 47 percent of Americans said that they completely or mostly agree that the values of Islam are "at odds with American values and way of life," while 43 percent said that they are not at odds.

At the same time, only 16 percent of respondents said that they actually know a lot about Islamic beliefs and practices. Another 57 percent claimed that they know "a little," while 26 percent admitted that they know nothing at all.

Most Americans, or 57 percent, said that they completely or mostly agree that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the U.S.

"Despite heated rhetoric singling out Muslims, a majority of the public still believes that Muslims are an important part of the religious community in this country," said Dr. Dan Cox, PRRI's research director.

"However, in the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Americans have become somewhat more critical of American Muslims for not doing enough to take on extremism in their own communities."

While close to half, or 47 percent of respondents said they are worried they might be a victim of terrorism, nearly 53 percent said that the U.S. should not close its doors to Syrian refugees coming to America fleeing war and violence.

Furthermore, around 48 percent said that America is strengthened by the growing number of foreigners coming to the country, though 35 percent said that the flow threatens traditional American values.

"Overall, this survey paints a portrait of an American public that is deeply concerned about terrorism, but not panicked," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. "Even though worries about terrorism have risen significantly over the last year, a majority still welcome Syrian refugees, and Americans remain more likely to hold positive views of immigrants than negative ones."

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