- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Americans” attitudes about Muslims are more negative now than in years past, while a slim majority of the public expresses a favorable view of Mormons, according to a national religious poll released yesterday.

“I think the main find in this survey is the fact that the public holds such mixed views of Islam and Mormonism,” said Gregory Smith, research fellow for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The survey indicated that about 43 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Muslims, while 35 percent express a negative view. Opinions of Muslims were more positive in 2004, with 48 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable.

As in previous surveys, Muslim Americans are seen more positively than Muslims overall; however, opinions of Muslim Americans have also become more negative.

A mere 53 percent of the public expresses “a favorable view of Mormons, while 27 percent view Mormons unfavorably,” stated the survey released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

For religious groups, the survey indicated that “a solid majority of white mainline Protestants and white non-Hispanic Catholics express favorable opinions of Mormons,” said the survey conducted for Pew by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas Inc. “Among white evangelical Protestants, just 46 percent have a positive impression of Mormons, while 39 percent have an unfavorable opinion.”

Mr. Smith was also intrigued by the fact that about 31 percent of Americans say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion.

Opinions were also affected by personal experiences, the poll indicating that among those who know a Muslim, for instance, 56 percent have a favorable overall impression of Muslims, compared with just 32 percent of those who are not acquainted with a Muslim.

However, this is not the same for Mormons: “About 31 percent of those who express favorable opinions of Mormons cite personal experience as the biggest influence, but a fairly large proportion of those with negative opinions of Mormons also point to their personal experiences as being most influential,” added the survey.

Despite the similarities between America”s opinion of both religions, “there are clear differences in public attitudes about Islam and Mormonism,” said the survey of 3,002 American adults. “These are reflected in the single-word descriptions people use in summarizing their impressions of each religion.”

According to the poll, about twice as many people use negative words as positive words to describe their impression of Islam, and the most frequently used negative word to describe Islam is “fanatic,” with “radical” and “terror” often mentioned as well. Among the positive terms, “devout” or some variant is most frequently used.

The poll indicated that the most commonly used negative words to describe Mormonism are “polygamy,” “bigamy” or some other reference to plural marriage, which the Mormon church practiced in its early days but now condemns.

“Among positive words used to describe the Mormon religion, ‘family” or some variant of the term is the most frequent response,” said the survey, which was conducted by telephone interviews.

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