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Growing Concern About Terrorism, Islam Even Before Paris Attacks
Joanna Piacenza, Robert P. Jones, PhD,
11.17.2015

Even before the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week, PRRI finds that 62 percent of Americans say terrorism is a critical issue to them personally. This concern has ticked up from 2011, when just over half (53 percent) identified terrorism as a critical issue facing the country.*

PRRI-Concerns-Over-Terrorism

Although concern has risen among all Americans, concern among Republicans has spiked sharply, rising from 57 percent to 79 percent. In contrast, roughly similar numbers of Democrats say terrorism was a critical issue in 2011 (50 percent) as they do now (53 percent).

As ISIS, a group that claims to be Islamic, takes credit for the Paris attacks, and many predict the attacks will set off a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment and actions in Europe and the U.S., PRRI also looks at perceptions of Islam in the U.S.

Even before the attacks, American perceptions of Islam have turned more negative over the past few years. Today, a majority (56 percent) of Americans say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, while roughly four in ten (41 percent) disagree. In both 2011 and 2013, Americans were about as likely to agree that Islamic and American values were incompatible as they were to say the opposite (2011: 47 percent vs 48 percent; 2013: 47 percent vs. 44 percent).

PRRI Islam at Odds by Religious Affiliation

Majorities of every major Christian religious group say that Islam is incompatible with American values and way of life, including 73 percent of white evangelical Protestants, 63 percent of white mainline Protestants, 61 percent of Catholics, and 55 percent of black Protestants. In contrast, among Americans who identify with non-Christian religious groups (including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other world religions), only 37 percent agree, while 58 percent disagree. Religiously unaffiliated Americans are also far less likely than Christians to believe that Islam is incompatible with American values (41 percent agree, 58 percent disagree).

Perspectives about Islam are also strongly influenced by politics. More than three-quarters of Republicans (76 percent) and Tea Party members (77 percent) agree that Islam is at odds with American values and way of life. A majority (57 percent) of political independents also believe that Islam is incompatible with American values and way of life. In contrast, only 43 percent of Democrats say that Islam is at odds with American culture, while 52 percent disagree.

Read the entire 2015 American Values Survey here.

*The 2011 question asked respondents whether terrorism is a critical issue “facing the country.” The current question asks respondents whether terrorism is an critical issue “to you personally.”