WASHINGTON – As the month of Ramadan ends and conflicts continue in the Middle East,the Arab American Institute released poll results showing that although American opinions of Muslims and Arabs are more negative than previous years,Americans also want to know more about both groups.
James Zogby,AAI president and director of Zogby Research Services,and Center for American Progress policy analyst Matthew Duss announced the results of the poll Tuesday. Zogby said the poll showed that Arab and Muslim communities have a lot of work to do to combat negative stereotypes.
“We need a lot more assistance from media and from institutions to round out the image of what has up until now been a stick figure,a one-dimensional stick figure that is viewed as a threat,” Zogby said.
Zogby Analytics surveyed 1,110 likely voters from June 27 to June 29. The unscientific poll selected participants who had signed up on a database,and the results were weighted to best represent the demographics of the survey population.
In all the questions,there was an option for respondents to mark either “not sure” or choose between “not familiar” and “not sure.”
American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims are at the lowest point since 2010,when the first poll was conducted. This year,32 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Arabs and 27 percent had a favorable opinion of Muslims,compared to 43 percent and 35 percent in 2010. Thirty-nine percent viewed Arabs unfavorably,and 45 percent viewed Muslims unfavorably this year,while 2010 results show 41 percent and 55 percent.
Whether a respondent personally knew an Arab or Muslim affected the responses. More people knew a member of at least one of the groups than didn’t,and people who knew an Arab or Muslim were almost twice as likely to have a favorable opinion.
“What comes through in the polling is that there is no substitute for personal relationships and experiences,” Duss said.
Racial identity and age factored into responses,Zogby said. Respondents who identified as non-white or ages 18 to 29 were more likely to view Muslims or Arabs favorably and were more confident that Arab Americans or American Muslims could work in government without their ethnicity or religion affecting their work.
When those surveyed were asked if they knew enough about Arabs or Muslims,about half said they needed to know more. Younger Americans needed to know more about Muslims,while older Americans said they needed to know more about Arabs.
Duss predicts that as Arabs and Muslims become more prominent in business,sports and government,the public will become more accepting. He said the U.S. often goes through “growing pains” as public opinion becomes more tolerant,such as the concern in 1960 about whether John F. Kennedy would be unduly influenced by his Catholic faith.
“We look back on these moments now and understand all these suspicions were kind of silly,” Duss said. “And,in the future,I suspect and hope that a lot of the suspicions and stereotypes that people think about Muslims and Arabs are also silly. But the question is,‘how to get from here to there?’”
Reach Reporter Kate Winkle at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.