Where does the American public stand on the idea of voting for a Muslim for president? This issue is back in the news as a result of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's statement on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."
Carson's sentiment on this issue is out of sync with the American public, 60% of whom in June said they personally would vote for an otherwise well-qualified candidate for president who happened to be Muslim. Attitudes toward a Muslim president were measured as part of a broader question that asked Americans if they would vote for an otherwise well-qualified candidate who fit one of 11 different descriptions. Six of the 11 related to religion: Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, evangelical Christian, Muslim and atheist.
The responses show that the six in 10 Americans who say they would vote for a Muslim candidate -- while still a majority -- is tied as the second-lowest positive response across the 11 categories tested. Less than half, 47%, would vote for a socialist. The 58% who would vote for an atheist is just about the same as the percentage who would vote for a Muslim candidate.
The partisan split on the question shows that a slight majority of Republicans, 54%, say they would not vote for a Muslim for president, while 45% said that they would. Seventy-three percent of Democrats would vote for a Muslim.
Thus, Carson is in sync with a slight majority of Republicans in his expressed reservation about voting for a Muslim for president.
Carson has the highest net favorable rating of any presidential candidate among Republicans in two-week rolling averages through Monday night, with 65% of Republicans evincing a favorable opinion, and only 8% an unfavorable opinion. Among all national adults, 42% have a favorable opinion and 14% an unfavorable opinion of Carson, with more than four in 10 saying they don't know enough about him to rate him. This national net favorable score of +28 is by far the most positive of any GOP candidate. Carson's national name identification will no doubt rise in the days ahead, but what impact his statement and the media focus that has resulted will have on his image remains to be seen.