Muslim Americans Are As Polarized On Politics As Everyone Else, Poll Finds

Muslim woman with Black Lives Matter sign at Juneteenth event
In this June 19, 2020 file photo, a Muslim woman attends a peaceful Juneteenth rally in Chicago. A new poll shows that Muslim Americans are sharply divided along racial and political lines over hot-button social issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Muslim woman with Black Lives Matter sign at Juneteenth event
In this June 19, 2020 file photo, a Muslim woman attends a peaceful Juneteenth rally in Chicago. A new poll shows that Muslim Americans are sharply divided along racial and political lines over hot-button social issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Muslim Americans Are As Polarized On Politics As Everyone Else, Poll Finds

Muslim Americans are sharply divided along political and racial lines when it comes to their views on President Donald Trump and hot-button social issues, according to a new study out Thursday.

And those views could be more of a factor in this year’s elections than in years past since, according to the study, Muslim Americans are making gains in becoming registered voters.

The report, titled “American Muslim Poll 2020: Amid Pandemic and Protest” was released by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., and focused on Muslim Americans. Over the course of a month in the spring, the group surveyed more than 2,000 respondents on questions about Trump’s performance, the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ rights and other issues.

“[The poll] showed how our country’s political polarization is reflected in the Muslim community as well,” said Dalia Mogahed, ISPU’s director of research and co-author of the report.

The poll showed that approval of Trump’s job performance among Muslim Americans had increased in the past two years, but it varied across Muslims of different backgrounds and was sharply divided along racial lines.

“White Muslims were far more likely than non-white Muslims to say they approved the president’s performance,” Mogahed said. “So race is a salient factor in how folks see the president even within the Muslim community.”

The report analyzed data for respondents who were approving of Trump, and it found that those Muslim Americans were most likely to be white and Republican, oppose coalition building with the Black Lives Matter movement and cite the economy as the most important issue for government to address.

“This group is really interesting because they’re very similar to Trump supporters overall, and quite different from Muslims, in general,” Mogahed said.

She added that the poll was taken in March, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have resulted in what political scientists refer to as the “rally round the flag” effect, a show of unity during a crisis or war that results in an approval boost for elected officials.

Mogahed also said while support for Trump rose, Muslims overwhelmingly — 51% to 16% — prefer a Democrat over a Republican for president.

One surprising finding, Mogahed said, was the growth of American Muslim voter registration. The survey showed that in 2020, 78% of eligible Muslims report being registered to vote, up from 60% four years ago.

“This is really a testimony to all the work that’s been done on the ground to do voter drives and encourage people to get involved,” Mogahed said.

Dilara Sayeed, president of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, said her group has witnessed the increase in civic engagement in the state and the Chicago area firsthand.

“We’re seeing dozens of phone bankers joining us each week, helping others get registered to vote,” Sayeed said. “And we also have people asking, ‘What else can I do besides vote?’ and we talk about being election judges and poll workers.”

Sayeed said Illinois has one of the largest Muslims populations in the country, and that more politicians have been engaging with her community than in the past. “They are understanding that money, energy and votes exist in the Muslim community,” she said.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.