Americas

Americans' Views of the Islamic World

Americans indicate what they like most and like least

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans what they admire most and least about the Muslim or Islamic world.

In your own words, what do you admire most about the Muslim or Islamic world? Anything else? (Open-ended)

2005 Dec 19-22

%

Faithful to/sincere in religious beliefs

22

Preservation of own culture/traditions

12

Goodwill toward others/Caring

7

Strong family/social bonds

3

Unity of Muslims

3

Economic wealth/Rich in resources

1

Other

2

Nothing

32

Everything

--

No opinion

25

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

A great many Americans -- about half -- are unable to respond to this question asking what they admire most about the Islamic world. Of those who do give a response, the most frequently occurring is the thought that those in the Islamic world are faithful to, and sincere in, their religious beliefs. There is also admiration expressed for the Islamic world's preservation of culture and traditions, and show of goodwill and caring toward others.

Here are the responses to the question that asked Americans what they admire least about the Muslim or Islamic world:

In your own words, what do you admire least about the Muslim or Islamic world? Anything else? (Open-ended)

2005 Dec 19-22

%

Extremism/Radicalism/Not open to other ideas

33

Inadequate observation of/adherence to Islamic teachings

11

Lack of gender equality

9

Not motivated to be a part of/have relations with rest of world

7

Inadequate protection of human rights/civil liberties

6

Not motivated to defend themselves/subjugated to the West

5

Corruption in government/society

4

Lack of unity among Islamic countries

3

Undeveloped/Backward/Lack of progress

2

Imitate/Influenced by Western culture

1

Other

2

Nothing

10

Everything

1

No opinion

21

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Among Americans, the overwhelming response to this "admire least" question is "extremism/radicalism/not open to other ideas."

The U.S. results can be contrasted with how residents of the Islamic world perceive themselves, based on a recent Gallup World Poll of 10 predominantly Islamic countries (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Morocco, Lebanon, and Indonesia). The results show that many residents in these countries also mentioned extremism in response to a question asking what they admire least about the Islamic world. This suggests that at least some citizens in Islamic societies also are concerned about the so-called "radical fringe."

Another frequently occurring response to the "admire least" question in the U.S. survey -- among those who could name an aspect -- was "lack of adherence to Islamic teachings." When this is coupled with disapproval of extremism, it suggests that some Americans associate extremism with a violation of Islamic teachings rather than blaming Islam for this behavior. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that Americans admire Muslims' adherence to their faith, suggesting some Americans see adherence to Islam as a positive quality, not a threat, while not adhering to Islam may be a negative to some. Not adhering to Islamic teachings was also cited by World Poll respondents as an aspect they least admire about the Islamic world, though it was not one of the most frequently occurring responses.

While some Americans cite "gender inequality" among the top things they admire least about the Islamic world, this response appears less frequently in World Poll respondents' criticism (even though 50% of those polled in the predominantly Islamic countries were women). In addition, women in many of these countries were no less likely than men to favor Islamic law (Sharia) as at least "a" source of legislation, if not the only source. In some cases, women were more likely than men to say that adherence to religious beliefs is necessary for the progress of their nations.

On a more positive note, what Americans do admire about the Islamic world is almost identical to what those in predominantly Islamic countries admire -- sincerity to their faith and adherence and preservation of their culture. However, given perceptions of Americans' (lack of) respect for Islam, Americans' admiration of these aspects of Islamic society would surprise many in the Islamic world.

Context

The recent Gallup World Poll survey of attitudes of residents of 10 predominantly Islamic countries asked what the West can do to improve relations with the Islamic world.

The most frequently occurring responses suggested a desire for more respect and understanding from the West ("Demonstrate more respect; more consideration, not to underestimate status of Arab/Muslim countries, demonstrate more understanding, respect of Islam as a religion/what Islam stands for/avoid playing down/downgrading what Islam stands for"). Among the top responses from residents of predominantly Islamic countries to the question of what they resent most about the West is the perception that residents of the West hate or degrade Arabs or Muslims.

As noted, many Americans, when asked what they admire most about the Islamic world, are unable to provide an answer. These data suggest that resentment in the Islamic world may not be without merit.

At the same time, the percentage of people surveyed in the poll of predominantly Islamic countries who responded that they admire "nothing" about the West was quite low (19.3% in Jordan, 6.3% in Saudi Arabia, 10% in Egypt, etc.). This may suggest a lop-sidedness in positive cultural exchange through such things as media and books in favor of the West.

In fact, the enjoyment of Western media is indicated by the large percentage of residents in predominantly Islamic countries that associates the West with producing enjoyable films -- close to or above 50% in most of the countries involved in the survey.

However, one would be hard-pressed to name many films produced by Muslims about their own society seen by Americans.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 19-22, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

These Gallup World Poll results are based on in-home, face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Morocco, Lebanon, and Indonesia, aged 18 and older, conducted August-October 2005. The sampling error associated with each respective sample is ±3 percentage points.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/21349/Americans-Views-Islamic-World.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030