Aug 23, 2010 2:45 pm


Despite the misleading headlines focusing on the fact 24% of Americans believe Barack Obama to be a Muslim, Time magazine's poll on Americans' Views on the Campaign, Religion and the Mosque Controversy reveals an involved and well informed public at least as far as the mosque issue is concerned. Consider the following results of the following questions:

11. As you may know, a group of Muslims in New York City has announced plans to build a community center and mosque on private property two blocks from the site where the World Trade Center stood. How closely have you been following this issue?

Very closely: 32%
Somewhat closely: 36%
Not very closely: 17% Not at all: 15%
No answer/Don't know: 1%

11 a. Some people say that building the Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site would serve as a symbol of the country's religious tolerance. Others say that building the mosque near the World Trade Center site would be an insult to those who died on 9/11. Which comes closest to your view, or do you agree somewhat with both views?

Serve as symbol of religious tolerance: 23%
Would be insult to those who died on 9/11: 44%
Agree with both: 27%
No answer/Don't know: 6%

In other words 68% of the public is following the Mosque story quite closely and understand the stakes. 71% believe that the mosque would be an insult to ground zero. At the same time 50% agree that it would serve as a symbol of religious tolerance. In other words, the question really is which concern trumps which?

12. Overall, do you favor or oppose the building of the Muslim community center and mosque near where the World Trade Center stood?

Favor: 26%
Oppose: 61%
No answer/Don't know: 13%

In other words, most of those polled preferred the interest of the victims. Do note their response to other questions reveals that the majority acknowledge the legal right of Muslims to participate fully in the American body politics:

15. Do you think that a Muslim should be allowed to ...

Run for President of the United States?

Yes: 61%
No: 32%
No answer/Don't know: 7%

Serve on the U.S. Supreme Court?

Yes: 65%
No: 28%
No answer/Don't know: 7%

Then came the question and answer that garnered all the headlines:

16. Do you personally believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a Christian?

Muslim: 24%
Christian: 47%
Other: 5%
No answer/Don't know: 24%

In other words, a quarter of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim. The answer is much less"incorrect" than the media makes it appear for Muslim law considers the child of a Muslim parent to be Muslim and Barack Obama's father was a Muslim. That does not mean that he practices the religion or that in this country (unlike in Muslim ones) he has not chosen to be a Christian. It does mean that the issue is less clear cut than it seems.

Does that mean that those who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim oppose his presidency? Not necessarily. Many may believe, as some pundits certainly do and I suspect the president himself does, that having Obama as president, just like building a mosque near ground zero, demonstrates American tolerance and lack of hostility to Islam as such. In other words, the president has benefited more than he has been hurt by his obvious Muslim connections. Indeed, many expected those connections to bear more fruit than they have so far.

Does that mean that 9/11 and the subsequent closer familiarity with Islam has not damage the American view of the faith? It most certainly has. Muslims are naturally viewed as more violent:

8. Turning to the Islamic religion, would you say that the Islamic religion is more likely than other religions to encourage violence against nonbelievers, less likely, or about the same as most other religions?

More likely: 46%
Less likely: 6%
Same as other religions: 39% No answer/Don't know: 10%

Not can Muslim expect to overcome that image soon. Just look at the difficulty Mormons have:

7. Thinking about various religious groups, overall, would you say that you have a very favorable view of the following religions, a somewhat favorable view, or a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable view of the following religions?


Very favorable: 32%
Somewhat favorable: 43%
Somewhat unfavorable: 8%
Very unfavorable: 5%
No answer/Don't know: 12%


Very favorable: 34%
Somewhat favorable: 39%
Somewhat unfavorable: 10%
Very unfavorable: 7%
No answer/Don't know: 10%


Very favorable: 12%
Somewhat favorable: 32%
Somewhat unfavorable: 22%
Very unfavorable: 21%
No answer/Don't know: 14%


Very favorable: 33%
Somewhat favorable: 41%
Somewhat unfavorable: 9%
Very unfavorable: 4%
No answer/Don't know: 13%


Very favorable: 16%
Somewhat favorable: 41%
Somewhat unfavorable: 18%
Very unfavorable: 11%
No answer/Don't know: 14%

Raymond Ibrahim notes that"many non-Western Muslims reject the 9/11 mosque, while Western Muslims insist on it." Of course, he refers to the Muslim American elite and they are very much like other American elites, arrogant, insensitive and legalistic to the extreme.

Update: More Americans follow mosque story. It reflects another elite - voter split

Now 62% oppose the building of a mosque near where the World Trade Center stood in Lower Manhattan, compared to 54% in the previous survey. Twenty-five percent (25%) favor allowing the mosque to go ahead, and 13% more are not sure. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the Political Class, however, favor building the mosque near Ground Zero. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Mainstream voters are opposed.

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