Muslim Americans are highly involved in the political process, relatively affluent and educated, and resemble the average American in terms of party affiliation, education and family income, according to research by Jen'nan Ghazal Read, associate professor of sociology at UC Irvine.
Read aims to shed light on a community that has been the subject of intense media scrutiny since 9/11, yet is still relatively unknown. In a recent survey, 66 percent of Americans said they know "very little or nothing" about Islam, and 34 percent said they have an "unfavorable opinion" of the religion.
"Muslim immigrants are not any different from earlier immigrant groups who came to America - they are motivated by the same desire to integrate and achieve a better way of life," Ghazal Read said.
"So what this means in terms of their political involvement is that the same things that dictate your average American's political attitudes and behaviors - socioeconomic status, marital status, race/ethnicity, age, gender and so on - dictate their attitude and behaviors."
Read's research shows that Muslim Americans are well-educated and affluent, religiously active, politically engaged and socially conservative. They hold very similar views to other Americans on social issues, family life and domestic policies, but perhaps not surprisingly are more critical of U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East.
Some of Read's findings include: - 24 percent of Muslim Americans have bachelor's degrees or higher, compared with 25 percent of non-Muslims.
- 26 percent of Muslim Americans have incomes of $75,000 or higher, compared with 28 percent of non-Muslims.
- Muslim American women are more likely then Muslim American men to affiliate with the Democratic Party (36 percent compared to 26 percent) and less likely to affiliate with the Republican Party (12 percent compared to 21 percent).
- 60 percent of Muslim Americans pray every day, compared to 70 percent of U.S. Christians
- 43 percent of Muslim Americans believe religion should influence politics, compared to 54 percent of U.S. Christians.
- 76 percent of Muslim Americans oppose gay marriage, compared to 79 percent of U.S. Christians
- 56 percent of Muslim Americans oppose abortion, compared to 65 percent of U.S. Christians
- Muslim Americans are registered to vote at higher rates than the national average, a significant statistic considering that many are immigrants to the U.S.
Read draws on the only national data currently available on Muslim American political attitudes and behaviors to draw these conclusions. The data derive from two telephone surveys administered to 3,600 Muslim American adults in 2001 and 2004 by Zogby International in conjunction with Georgetown University's Project MAPS. Read's study is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Russell Sage Foundation, and was completed while she was a scholar-in-residence at the Chateau de la Bretesche with funding from the Borchard Foundation.