AUGUST 25, 2022 | BY DALIA MOGAHED, ERUM IKRAMULLAH, AND YOUSSEF CHOUHOUD
Fielded between mid-February and mid-March, American Muslim Poll 2022: A Politics and Pandemic Status Report provides a snapshot of American Muslims and Americans of other faiths as well as no faith two years into the COVID-19 pandemic as we enter a new phase of living with the virus.
In its sixth installment, this poll presents an updated demographic profile of American Muslims, a pre-midterm election exploration of several hot-button issues, and an updated Islamophobia Index among American faith and non-faith groups. Based on the research presented, we offer a selection of recommendations to a variety of stakeholders in a position to address some of the greatest identified challenges facing American Muslim communities.
Fielded between mid-February and mid-March, American Muslim Poll 2022 provides a snapshot of American Muslims and Americans of other faiths as well as no faith two years into the COVID-19 pandemic as we enter a new phase of living with the virus. Findings from American Muslim Poll also reflect a nation facing economic struggles, continued racial inequity, gun violence, and an ever-growing partisan divide. With midterm elections taking place this fall, many hot-button issues are top of mind for Americans.
In its sixth installment, this poll presents an updated demographic profile of American Muslims, diving into markers previously presented and new ones, including military service and jobs created, to further flesh out a profile of a growing and changing community.
This study continues to monitor Muslims’ voter registration and intention to vote, but, for the first time, inquired about possible experiences with voter suppression.
We again measured the Islamophobia Index among several American faith groups and those who do not affiliate with a faith community. Our aim is to explore if a change in administration from a decidedly anti-Muslim federal leadership to one that has appointed more Muslims and to higher posts than any in history changed public opinion or Muslim experiences with religious discrimination or faith-based bullying. This survey expands the areas of study of institutional and individual Islamophobia and bullying to cover not only “brick and mortar” engagements but online spaces.
Finally, our researchers added recommendations aimed at a number of stakeholders to this study to address the important needs and opportunities revealed.
This report will be accompanied by the release of additional analyses, delving deeper into the research in ways a single report could not cover. We always look to our readers for feedback and suggestions. What questions did the study spark for you? Help us realize our mission to inform decisions and dialogue about American Muslims by letting us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who are Illinois Muslims, and what are their assets and needs? What opportunities exist for leaders, officials, volunteers, policymakers, corporations, and social/civic organizations on how best to understand and support the Muslim community in Illinois? This report presents an empirical assessment of the strengths and struggles of the Illinois Muslim community, with a comparison to the Illinois general public.
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As reported in 2017, American Muslims are younger than all other faith and non-faith groups surveyed. About one-quarter of American Muslims are between 18 and 24 years old, compared with 8% of Jews, 4% of Catholics, 6% of Protestants, 2% of white Evangelicals, 12% of the nonaffiliated, and 8% of the general public. Moreover, 7% of American Muslims (and 9% of the nonaffiliated) are aged 65 or older, compared with 29% of Jews, 24% of Catholics, 36% of Protestants, 39% of white Evangelicals, and 22% of the general public. A younger American Muslim community is thereby more likely to contribute to the labor force, pay taxes, and grow their families. Furthermore, a younger Muslim community means that the youngest segment of the community came of age at a time when their faith community has been targeted and surveilled, never knowing an America before 9/11.
Also previously found in 2017, American Muslims are the most likely faith community to have low income. One-third of American Muslims (33%) have a total household income of $30,000 or less, compared with 12% of Jews, 20% of Catholics, 19% of Protestants, 14% of white Evangelicals, and 26% of the general public. About one-fifth of American Muslims (22%) have a total household income of $100,000 or more, on par with all other groups except Jewish Americans (44%). Black Muslims (41%) are more likely than white (25%) and Asian Muslims (23%) to have low income, on par with Black Americans in the wider public (43%), while nearly one-third of Arab Muslims (29%) report a low household income.
Because Muslims are significantly younger than the general public, we examined levels of education among Americans aged 25 or older for a more even comparison. American Muslims (46%) are as likely as all other groups except Jews (60%) to have a college degree or higher (47% of Catholics, 38% of Protestants, 37% of white Evangelicals, and 38% of both the nonaffiliated and the general public).
About four in ten American Muslims (43%) are employed full-time, on par with 42% of Jews, 46% of Catholics, 41% of Protestants, 37% of white Evangelicals, 43% of the nonaffiliated, and 42% of the general public. Muslims are also as likely as others to be employed part-time (9% of Muslims, 6% of Jews, 3% of Catholics, 8% of Protestants, 9% of both white Evangelicals and the nonaffiliated, and 8% of the general public). On the other hand, American Muslims (and the nonaffiliated) are least likely to be retired (7% of Muslims and 9% of the nonaffiliated vs. 21% of Jews, 26% of Catholics, 30% of Protestants, 31% of white Evangelicals, and 20% of the general public), reflecting Muslims’ younger average age. Another implication of Muslims’ younger age is a greater proportion who identify as students. American Muslims are more likely than Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and the general public to be students (13% vs. 3-5%).
Roughly one in ten Muslims (8%) report being self-employed or owning their own business, as likely as Catholics (8%), white Evangelicals (6%), the nonaffiliated (8%), and the general public (6%) and more likely than Protestants (3%). At 16%, Jewish Americans are more likely than Muslims to own their own business. Self-employed Muslims employ an average of eight workers, resulting in at least an estimated 1.37 million American jobs created.
Self-employed Muslims employ an average of eight workers, resulting in at least an estimated 1.37 million American jobs created.
Roughly four in five Muslims (83%) hold US citizenship which is the least likely of all other groups (92%-99%). However, while American Muslims are least likely to be citizens, they are as likely as others to serve in the US military (11% of Muslims, 10% of Catholics and Protestants, 13% of white Evangelicals, and 9% of both the nonaffiliated and the general public). White Muslims are more likely than Asian and Arab Muslims to serve in the military (17% vs. 4% and <1%) and Black Muslims are more likely than Arab Muslims to serve (10% vs. <1%) but on par with Asian Muslims. Black Muslims are as likely as Black Americans in the general public to serve in the military (both at 10%), while white Muslims were more likely than white Americans in the general public (17% vs. 11%).
Seven in ten American Muslims say religion is very important to them, second only to white Evangelicals (83%) and more likely than all other faith groups (35%-65%). Muslim men and women were on par in their view that religion is ‘very important’ to their daily life (71% of Muslim men and 69% of Muslim women). Additionally, Muslims of all ages were equally likely to rate religion as ‘very important’ to their daily life, suggesting that devotion to faith will endure in the next generation. Among the general public, however, those aged 50 and older were more likely than younger age groups to say religion is ‘very important’. American Muslims of different races and ethnicities were also equally likely to say religion is ‘very important’ to their daily life (77% of Black Muslims, 67% of white Muslims, 73% of Asian Muslims, and 64% of Arab Muslims), suggesting devotion to faith as a common factor uniting a diverse American Muslim community.
Roughly four in ten American Muslims (42%) attend religious services once a week or more, which is less often than Protestants (55%) and white Evangelicals (72%) but more than Jews (25%), Catholics (30%), and the general public (29%). Muslims aged 18-29 years old are less likely than Muslims of older age groups to attend religious services once a week or more (30% vs. 50% of 30-49-year-olds and 46% of 50+-year-olds) but are more likely than their age counterparts in the general public (16%). Fourteen percent of Muslims are “un-mosqued,” meaning they report never attending religious services. Muslim men and women are equally likely to be un-mosqued, as are Muslims of all age groups.
Fourteen percent of Muslims are “unmosqued”, meaning they report never attending religious services. Muslim men and women are equally likely to be unmosqued, as are Muslims of all age groups.
Consistent with previous years, in 2022 American Muslims are more likely than all other groups to express optimism about the direction of the country (48% of Muslims vs. 31% of Jews, 24% of Catholics, 17% of Protestants, 4% of white Evangelicals, 17% of the nonaffiliated, and 18% of the general public). Among nearly all groups surveyed, men and women were equally likely to be satisfied with the direction of the country, suggesting that political views are more aligned by faith than gender. Compared with the years of the Trump administration, Muslims are more likely to be satisfied under the Biden administration (48% in 2022 vs. 41% in 2017, 27% in 2018, 33% in 2019, and 37% in 2020). This comes as no surprise given that American Muslims were often targeted with negative rhetoric and policies under Trump.
Middle-aged Muslims 30-49 years old were more likely to be satisfied with the direction of the country than those 18-29 years old (54% vs. 42%). White Muslims were more likely than Black, Asian, and Arab Muslims to express satisfaction with the direction of the country (67% vs. 40%, 50%, and 30%, respectively) and Arab Muslims are more likely than Asian and white Muslims to express dissatisfaction (69% vs. 31% and 48%, respectively).
Six in ten Muslims approve of President Biden’s job performance, which is more likely than Protestants (36%), white Evangelicals (16%), the nonaffiliated (46%), and the general public (42%) and on par with Jews (57%) and Catholics (50%). Among Muslims, the youngest were less likely than older age groups to approve (48% vs. 64% of 30-49-year-olds and 73% of those 50+ years old). Looking by race and ethnicity, we find that, at 39%, Arab Muslims are least likely to approve of President Biden (compared with 58% of Black Muslims, 73% of white Muslims, and 63% of Asian Muslims). While Black Muslims are on par with Black Americans in the general public in terms of their presidential approval (58% and 64%, respectively), white Muslims are more likely than white Americans in the general public to approve (73% vs. 36%).
Similar to the pattern found for satisfaction with the direction of the country, for both American Muslims and Jews, presidential approval increased in 2022 after four years of the Trump administration (60% among Muslims and 57% among Jews, compared to a low of 13% for Muslims and 27% for Jews during the Trump administration). During the last year of the Obama presidency in 2016, 80% of Muslims and 58% of Jews expressed approval.
Roughly eight in 10 American Muslims are eligible to vote (79%), lower than all other groups (90%+). Among eligible Muslims, 81% are registered to vote, as likely as eligible Protestants (85%), the nonaffiliated (79%), and the general public (84%). Eligible Jewish Americans (91%), Catholics (90%), and white Evangelicals (99%) were most likely to be registered to vote. Among Muslims eligible to vote, men are more likely than women to be registered (88% vs. 72%, respectively). This presents an opportunity for get out the vote (GOTV) efforts to engage women with outreach. Muslims of all ages and racial/ethnic groups are equally likely to be registered to vote. White Muslims are less likely than white Americans in the general public to be registered to vote (82% vs. 88%, respectively), while Black Muslims are on par with Black Americans in the general public (78% and 82%, respectively). American Muslim voter registration has climbed significantly from 60% in 2016 to 81% in 2022, on par with the general public (84%).
American Muslim voter registration has climbed significantly from 60% in 2016 to 81% in 2022, on par with the general public (84%).
In 2016, ISPU identified a segment of the Muslim community we coined the “insha’Allah voter,” those who say they intend to vote in upcoming elections but have not yet registered to do so. For the first time in six years of American Muslim Poll, we find no difference between the percent intending to vote (79%) and the percent registered to vote (81%), suggesting those Muslims intending to vote are registered. Among Muslims eligible to vote, men are more likely than women to say they intend to vote in the midterms (86% vs. 70%, respectively).
Despite these significant gains in voter registration, GOTV efforts remain critical. In 2019 and 2017, American Muslim Poll included questions asking whether respondents voted in the previous year’s election. We found that the proportion who actually voted was roughly 20% less than the proportion who previously said they intend to vote. This signals the need for GOTV campaigning even after people are registered to get people out to the polls.
While 2020 saw historic turnout for the presidential election, voter suppression remains a critical issue facing Americans. Research shows it persists and reflects racial discrimination in the voting process. Among Muslims who are eligible to vote, 46% report experiencing some obstacle to casting their vote during the past four years. This is more likely than 10%-26% of all other groups surveyed. Among those eligible to vote, Muslim men (52%) are more likely than Muslim women (38%) to face obstacles to voting.
Among both Muslims and the general public, younger people were more likely than the oldest age group to report facing obstacles while casting their vote. Among Muslims, roughly 55% of 19-29-year-olds and 30-49-year-olds, compared with 20% of 50+-year-olds report facing obstacles to casting their ballots. Additionally, white Muslims are more likely to report facing obstacles to voting (59%), compared with Black (35%), Asian (37%), and Arab (42%) Muslim eligible voters. Among the general public, white eligible voters (15%) were least likely to report facing obstacles, compared with 31% of Black and 28% of Hispanic eligible voters.
One-quarter of Muslims eligible to vote faced long wait times when casting a ballot in the past four years, more than any other obstacle cited. Longer wait times are more often experienced by racial/ethnic minorities and poorer precincts and often reflect the lack of electoral resources in these precincts. Long waits are particularly challenging for voters with limited financial resources, often forcing them to forgo voting at all if they cannot afford to take a day off work. Other obstacles to voting among Muslims include: shortened poll hours (17%), nearby polling stations shutdown (15%), cumbersome voter ID requirements (14%), language barriers causing difficulty understanding ballot choices (13%), and facing intimidation (12%).
Based on linear regression analysis, facing obstacles to voting in the past four years, being born in the US (vs. being foreign born), and being 50+ years old (compared with 18-29 years old) are all associated with a greater likelihood of intending to vote among Muslims. These findings point to the need for greater outreach to younger Muslims and immigrant communities.
Forty-six percent of Muslims identify as Democrats, as likely as Jews (45%) and the nonaffiliated (40%) and more likely than Catholics (35%), Protestants (25%), white Evangelicals (6%), and the general public (32%). Four in ten Muslims identify as Independents, more likely than any other group (17%-32%). One in ten Muslims identify as Republicans, on par with the nonaffiliated (11%) but lower than all other groups (18%-69%). The youngest Muslims aged 18-29 are less likely than their elders to identify with a party. Among 18-29-year-old Muslims, nearly half identify as Independents (49%) compared to just a third of 30-49-year-olds (33%). Likewise, younger Muslims are less likely to identify as Democrats compared to those 30-40 years old (39% vs. 51%, respectively).
The large politically independent segment among Muslims suggests that many in this community make voting decisions based more on changing policy issues and less along fixed partisan lines, opening an opportunity for both parties to win Muslim support. It also suggests that many Muslims don’t identify with either party’s platform in full.
Ahead of this report, ISPU released a number of data points early to inform important national conversations as they unfolded. These included:
More than half of Muslims (56%), along with 60% of Jews, 48% of Catholics, and 65% of the nonaffiliated see climate change as ‘a great deal’ the result of human behavior, which is more likely than 35% of Protestants and 25% of white Evangelicals and on par with 48%-65% of Jews, Catholics, and the nonaffiliated. Similarly, when deciding between government regulation and the private marketplace as a solution to increase reliance on renewable energy, Muslims are among the most supportive of government regulation (71%), as likely as roughly two-thirds of Jews and Catholics and more likely than 38%-63% of Protestants, white Evangelicals, and the general public.
Muslims (64%) and Catholics (62%) are least likely to report being familiar with Critical Race Theory (CRT), while Jews (84%) and white Evangelicals (83%) are most likely to claim knowledge of the theory. Despite being less familiar with CRT overall, among those who are familiar, roughly 70% of Muslims and the nonaffiliated express agreement with its understood principles, significantly more likely than other groups (15%-54%).
Among Muslims, white Muslims are more likely than Asians and Arabs to report familiarity with CRT (74% vs. 59% and 51%, respectively). Two-thirds of Black Muslims report familiarity with CRT, as likely as white Muslims. Furthermore, Black Muslims (61%) are less likely than Black Americans in the general public (72%) to agree with the principles of CRT, while white Muslims (79%) are more likely than whites in the GP (45%) to agree.
Race tensions continue to challenge Muslim communities, just as they do the rest of America. Though Muslims overall, especially non-Black Muslim, express support for popular movements and ideas associated with racial equity like Black Lives Matter and CRT, this support must be a foundation for more intra-Muslim conversations about race and not the final word.
For the fourth year, we measured the Islamophobia Index, a measure of the level of public endorsement of five negative stereotypes associated with Muslims in America. The general public scored 25 (on a scale of 0 to 100), on par with 27 in 2020. The Islamophobia Index calculates reported levels of agreement with the following statements:
American Muslims scored 26 on the Islamophobia Index, higher than Jewish Americans who scored the lowest at 17. Protestants (23) and the nonaffiliated (22) scored similarly, while Catholics (28) and white Evangelicals (30) were highest. We find that over time, Islamophobia has declined among other groups but has increased among Muslims. For Muslims, scores on the Islamophobia Index have increased from 18 in 2018 to 26 in 2022. Between 2020 and 2022, the score increased six points from 20 to 26.
Further analysis reveals that higher Islamophobia Index scores among Muslims are driven primarily by Muslims who identify as ‘white.’ In 2020, white Muslims showed increased Islamophobia with a score of 27, followed by an even larger increase in 2022 with a score of 40, significantly higher than white Evangelicals (30). Further research is needed to explain why there has been such a large increase in Islamophobia among white Muslims.
Endorsing negative stereotypes about one’s own community is referred to as internalized oppression, or internalized bigotry or racism in the case of a racial group. According to Dr. Muniba Saleem, an ISPU scholar and Associate Professor in Media Psychology, Intergroup Communication, and Diversity at the University of California, Santa Barbara:
There are well-documented studies showing that minorities can internalize the negative stereotypes of their group and that can influence their self-esteem, psychological distress, motivation, and performance (David et al., 2019; Siy & Cheryan, 2013; Steele et al., 2002). Other research has examined the negative consequences of media stereotypes on minorities’ self-esteem and experiences of shame and embarrassment (Ramasubramanian et al., 2017; Schmadet et al., 2015) as well as concerns of how the majority group will view them (Fujioka, 2005; Tsfati, 2007).
It is worth noting that, compared with older Muslims, internalized Islamophobia is more prevalent among younger Muslims, who have lived the majority of their lives after 9/11/2001, in a country that has demonized their identity in popular culture, news media, political rhetoric, and in policy. Research suggests that this kind of steady drumbeat of bigoted ideas and state actions have a detrimental impact on the target group’s self-image and mental health.
Another noteworthy and alarming finding were the disproportionately negative views among white Muslims, who are also the most likely to report experiencing ‘regular’ religious discrimination. Some studies on internalized racism have surprisingly found that endorsing negative stereotypes about one’s own group is associated with a higher locus of control. This suggests that internalized prejudice may actually be a defense mechanism against the trauma of bigotry at the hands of the dominant group by agreeing with those in power but believing one has the choice (locus of control) to not be like those tropes. More research is needed to fully understand the why and how of internalized Islamophobia.
Roughly six in 10 American Muslims report facing religious discrimination in the past year (62%), more likely than all other groups surveyed and on par with levels of discrimination reported in the past five years. About half of Jewish Americans reported facing religious discrimination, making them the next most likely group to do so compared with other groups (13%-32%). Muslim men and women were equally likely to report facing religious discrimination (59% of men and 67% of women), a departure from earlier studies (American Muslim Poll 2017, American Muslim Poll 2018) where women were more likely to have experienced faith-based bias.
Four in ten Muslims aged 50+ years old reported facing religious discrimination in the past year, compared with roughly 69% of Muslims in younger age groups. Additionally, 71% of white Muslims reported facing religious discrimination, compared with 56% of Black Muslims. Asian (60%) and Arab (58%) Muslims fell in-between in terms of having experienced religious discrimination. Nearly one-third of white Muslims (29%) reported facing religious discrimination on a regular basis, compared with 6%-12% of Muslims of other racial/ethnic groups.
Among those who reported facing any religious discrimination in the past year, we asked about whether it occurred in various settings. We find Muslims were more likely than Jews and the general public to experience religious discrimination in the following institutional settings: when applying for a job (37% vs. 5% and 6%, respectively), when interacting with law enforcement (38% vs. 9% and 10%, respectively), at the airport (44% vs. 11% and 3%, respectively), and when seeking healthcare services (27% vs. 5% and 8%, respectively).
Another form of institutional discrimination we newly explored in 2022 is discrimination on social media from social media platforms themselves, which could include having messages removed, accounts closed, or being kicked off a platform. Nearly half of Muslims (46%) reported this type of religious discrimination, compared with 36% of the general public.
Men were more likely than women to report facing religious discrimination in several institutional settings including when applying for a job (44% vs. 30%), when interacting with law enforcement (50% vs. 26%), and from social media platforms (53% vs. 39%).
Among those who reported facing any religious discrimination in the past year, we asked about whether it occurred in two interpersonal settings: in the workplace from co-workers and online. Roughly four in 10 Muslims (43%) reported facing discrimination from co-workers, more often than Jews (29%) and the general public (23%). As for perceived bias in virtual spaces, 56% of Muslims who report experiencing discrimination reported it coming from other social media users, on par with the 51% of Jews who said the same, and more likely than the general public (45%). Muslim men were more likely than Muslim women to report facing discrimination on social media from other users (63% vs. 49%, respectively).
As noted previously in 2017 and 2020, the impact of Islamophobia isn’t limited to adults. Muslim children are also impacted by Islamophobia in the form of bullying. In 2022, we find that nearly half (48%) of Muslim families with school-age children reported having a child who faced religious-based bullying in the past year. This is more likely than Jewish families (13%) and the general public (18%). One-fifth of Muslim families report that the bullying occurred nearly every day.
When asked about who bullied their child, Muslim parents report that their children face bullying from students and adults, both online and in person. Specifically, 64% of Muslim families reported facing bullying from other students at school and 31% reported bullying from other students online. Additionally, 42% of families reported their child was bullied by a teacher or school official at school and 19% from a teacher or school official online. These findings shed light on cyberbullying as a major issue Muslim families face. In sum, many Muslim children and parents have to worry about religious-based bullying at school and online from other students and even trusted adults in the school.
Based on the research presented, we offer the following recommendations to a variety of stakeholders in a position to address some of the greatest challenges identified as facing American Muslim communities.