The lead-up to the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks (which, if you have somehow managed to evade the news coverage, is on Sunday) has inspired an impressive array of attempts to gauge public opinion on issues relating to national security and religious tolerance. From our vantage point at the intersection of religion and politics, the most notable findings deal with the general population’s attitudes toward Muslim Americans, which reflect Americans’ currently conflicting views. If you’ve already perused the recently released joint report from PRRI and the Brookings Institution, based on a major new study from PRRI, take a moment to mull over “The American Public on the 9/11 Decade: A Study of American Public Opinion,” a new poll from researchers at the University of Maryland.
Steven Kull and Shibley Telhami, the report’s co-authors, observe that “while the decade after 9/11 has put great stress on ordinary Americans’ level of goodwill toward Islam and Muslim societies, not all the interactions have been negative, and there have been some chances to gain some familiarity with a world that was unknown to most.” In their fascinating poll, which tackles public opinion on some of the most significant issues of the past decade (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror, the Arab Spring, and the Arab-Israeli conflict), they conclude that while views of Islam have grown more negative, majorities still acknowledge that the 2001 terrorist attacks do not reflect mainstream thinking in Islam, and that the conflict between Islam and the West is not about culture but power.
Like PRRI, Kull and Telhami reported that Americans overwhelmingly perceive a fraught relationship between the United States and Muslim people, one which most Americans do not feel is deserved. Kull and Tehami shed some additional light on why Americans mistrust Muslims’ observations about the U.S. Some of these concerns were centered around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for example, 75% believed that non-American Muslim attitudes were inspired by “opposition to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories”) but others were related to alleged “hatred for America’s values” (71%) and “jealousy toward the US” (67%). Needless to say, it’s well worth a read.