Poll: Economy, Civil Rights, and Education Top Concerns for American Muslims

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The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) launched the results of its 2016 poll, American Muslims: Politics, Priorities and Prejudice in 2016, on March 15, 2016, at its headquarters in Washington DC. Coming out at an opportune time as primaries are taking place in several states

The poll of 515 Muslim respondents and 312 Jews compares the general population of Muslims to American Jews, Protestants, and Catholics with respect to their levels of religiosity, patriotism, activism, the acceptability of both military and non-military attacks on civilians, and general outlook on the state of the country and on their lives. 

The poll was conducted in January. ISPU’s Dalia Mogahed and Fuoad Pervez created the questionnaire for this study and commissioned two firms to conduct the survey: Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) for a nationally representative survey of Muslims and Jews, and Triton Polling and Research for a nationally representative survey of the general American public, read a statement. David Dutwin of SSRS was the chief methodologist, whose expertise is conducting polls in the Jewish and other minority communities.

SSRS pulled sample pre-screened as Muslim households from the last four years of its weekly national omnibus survey of 1,000 randomly selected respondents to recontact for this study, and also employed a web panel and completed the final 106 Muslim interviews using an online survey.

The poll asked questions about civic engagement and the role faith plays in their lives, such as “In the past 12 months, have you worked with other people from your neighborhood to fix a problem or improve a condition in your community or elsewhere? And Aside from weddings and funerals how often do you attend religious services?”

The main takeaways were that American Muslims lean Democratic but 40 percent are independent voters. American Muslims are engaged in the community but aren't as politically engaged. Muslims don't vote because they think that their vote doesn't matter and do vote because of civic duty or because they want to make a difference. 85 percent say they intend to vote but 60 percent actually voted. If the presidential elections were held today 40 percent would vote for Hilary Clinton, 27 percent would choose Bernie Sanders.

The poll found that Muslims are as likely as Jews to vote for Sanders. Younger Muslims prefer Bernie Sanders, and 18-29 year olds overwhelmingly preferred Sanders. That Clinton finds the highest support among Muslims challenges the idea that Muslims would not be want to be led by a woman, said Mogahed. 

“There are Muslims who would gravitate towards the Republicans if the rhetoric was different,” said Mogahed.

“When you're denied entrance into your society, you'll work to prove them wrong thru civic engagement,” said Imam Talib Shareef, imam of the First Mosque in Washington D.C., speaking at the event. 

No correlation was found between Muslim attitudes toward violence and their frequency of mosque attendance. The survey found most Muslims are pious and patriotic, with strong religious and American identities, a lesser number are neither pious nor patriotic and those polled who are less pious identify as less American too; strong attendance at the masjid linked with higher civic engagement. A stronger American identity was associated with a stronger religious identity and vice versa.

81 percent say attacks on civilians are never justified, which was roughly the same as the other faith groups polled: Jews, Catholics, and Protestants. Muslims are also the most likely to reject military attacks on civilians. American Muslims are the most optimistic even after suffering the most discrimination out of every faith group polled.

American Muslims top concerns are economy, civil rights, and education according to this poll.

Rep Keith Ellison speaking at the launch said that the number one thing he hears while door knocking in Muslim neighborhoods is concern about jobs and wage theft.

"The more the US can reflect its actual reality in terms of leadership rhetoric, the stronger our society will be," said Mogahed, head of the Research at ISPU.