Thursday, March 09, 2006

WaPo poll reveals increased negative view of Islam among Americans

A Washington Post/ABC poll released today shows a plurality of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam. Of the 1,000 polled, 46% claimed they had an unfavorable view of Islam while 43% looked at Islam favorably. The WaPo's poll story included comments from liberal and conservative thinkers who maintained negative media coverage and of events fomented by Muslim extremists and recent political rhetoric led to the poll result.

Juan Cole from the left:

..Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."

Michael Franc from the right:

..said the survey responses "seems to me to be a real backlash against Islam" and that congressional leaders do not help the problem by sometimes using language that links all Muslims with extremists.

The Opinion Journal claims the poll result comes from the negative press coverage of the Iraq War:

Our sense is that the media's antiwar bias is feeding the public's anti-Muslim bias. By relentlessly focusing on the bad news in Iraq and playing down the good, journalists perpetuate an image of the Muslim world as a hostile, uncivilized place.

I found the quotes from some of those polled more interesting, including this Chicago school bus driver:

As a school bus driver in Chicago, Gary McCord, 65, dealt with many children of Arab descent. "Some of the best families I've ever had were some of my Muslim families," he said in a follow-up interview. "They were so nice to me." He now works for a Palestinian Christian family, whose members he says are "really marvelous." But his good feelings do not extend to Islam. "I don't mean to sound harsh or anything, but I don't like what the Muslim people believe in, according to the Koran. Because I think they preach hate," he said.

I'm sure that some Americans are influenced by media coverage, but I think the results are more complex. I believe a significant number of Americans view Islam negatively, but do not care to have the country confront the extremists. They would rather retreat into Fortress America and let the extremists have at it by themselves, hoping we can get on with business as usual, undisturbed by the turmoil overseas. A shortsighted and unrealistic view in my opinion.

The Post link also includes video of an interview with Claudia Deane, its assistant polling director. Hat tip to the TV station for correcting the spelling of her name mid-interview.

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