Poll Finds US Muslims Thriving, but Not Content
“A Gallup poll of Muslims in the United States has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving.” So says a report in the New York Times of March 2, 2009 authored by Larie Goodstein. The poll makes interesting disclosures and makes absorbing reading. Goodstein observes that “the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany, according to the poll.” Her observations are revealing.
… within the United States, Muslims are the least content religious group, when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Gallup researchers say that is because the largest segment of American Muslims are African-Americans (35 percent, including first-generation immigrants), and they generally report lower levels of income, education, employment and well-being than other Americans.
But American Muslims are not one homogeneous group, the study makes clear. Asian-American Muslims (from countries like India and Pakistan) have more income and education and are more likely to be thriving than other American Muslims. In fact, their quality of life indicators are higher than for most other Americans, except for American Jews .
“We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which financed the poll. “Ethnically, politically and economically, they are in every way a cross-section of the nation. They are the only religious community without a majority race.”
The Gallup study is significant because it is the first to examine a randomly selected sample of American Muslims. Gallup interviewed more than 300,000 people by telephone in 2008 while conducting broader polls, and focused on 946 who identified themselves as Muslims. (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.)
Previous studies of American Muslims located respondents based on surnames, mosque attendance or geographic clusters, which polling experts say can skew the results.
Gallup asked an extensive battery of questions, producing a picture of American Muslims through the prisms of race, gender, class, age and education. The international comparisons were possible because of earlier Gallup studies of Muslims overseas.
American Muslim women, contrary to stereotype, are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and post-graduate degrees. They are more highly educated than women in every other religious group except Jews. American Muslim women also report incomes more nearly equal to men, compared with women and men of other faiths.
Muslim women in the United States attend mosque as frequently as Muslim men — a contrast with many Muslim countries where the mosques are primarily for men. American Muslims are generally very religious, saying that religion is an important part of their daily lives (80 percent), more than any other group except Mormons (85 percent). The figure for Americans in general is 65 percent.
By political ideology, Muslims were spread across the spectrum from liberal to conservative, with about 4 in 10 saying they were moderates. By party identification , Muslims resembled Jews more than any other religious group, with small minorities registered as Republicans, roughly half Democrats and about a third independents.
There are clear signs of social alienation , however. Lower percentages of Muslims register to vote or volunteer their time than adherents of other faiths. They are less likely to be satisfied with the area where they live. These indicators are “worrying,” said Ahmed Younis, a senior analyst at the Muslim studies center.
“There is still a sense among American Muslims of being excluded from the mainstream,” Mr. Younis said, “and among young people that’s more acute.”
But the perception is far worse among Muslims in England and France, the study found.
Mr. Younis said the finding “reinforces the proposition that the integration process for American Muslims is, on the whole, a much more successful endeavor than it is for European Muslims.”