American Muslims: Politically left but socially conservative
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Pew has released a survey analysis comparing American Muslims to other American religious groups, comparing levels of religious intensity, political identification, and policy preferences. I summarize and quote from some of the key findings below.
Muslims account for less than one percent of the country's population, whereas eight-in-10 Americans are Christian. Recent public opinion surveys by the Pew Research Center find that, with respect to the intensity of their religious beliefs, Muslim Americans most closely resemble white evangelicals and black Protestants.
Among the findings, as displayed above, half of Muslim Americans (50%) view the Koran as the word of God to be taken literally, word for word. Majorities of both white evangelicals (66%) and black Protestants (68%) hold a similar view of the Bible. Among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, by contrast, far fewer than half (25% and 22%, respectively) take a literal view of the Scriptures.
Though white evangelicals share similarities with Muslims with respect to religious intensity, the two groups are very different when it comes to their respective political orientation. Muslim Americans, simply put, are far more politically liberal than evangelicals, and more similar in their basic political outlook to black Protestants, secular Americans and, in some instances, white mainline Protestants.
On the question of the proper size and scope of government, a strong majority of Muslim Americans (70%) say they prefer a larger government that provides more services rather than a smaller government providing fewer services, a preference nearly identical to that of black Protestants. Among evangelicals (as well as white Catholics and white mainline Protestants), majorities express a preference for smaller government.
Yet despite their identification with Democrats, Muslims remain as socially conservative on issues such as gay marriage (see below) and legislating morality as Evangelicals. On the question of whether government should be involved in protecting morality, Muslim Americans are even more supportive of government action than evangelicals (or any other group). Roughly six-in-10 Muslims (59%) believe that government should do more to protect morality, compared with only 29% who say they worry that the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality. Among all other major religious groups, fewer than half share the view that government should do more to protect morality.
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