Most Americans say they know little to nothing about the practices of Islam and Mormonism but say their own religious beliefs have little in common with either of these faiths, according to a national survey released Tuesday.
Forty-five percent of those polled said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. Nearly 1 in 3 respondents say Mormonism is not a Christian religion, the report said.
The survey of 3,002 Americans was conducted last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Although 58% of respondents said they knew little or nothing about Islamic practices, 70% of non-Muslims said Islam was very different from their own religious beliefs.
Pew Forum senior fellow John Green said that respondents' knowledge of Islam might be even lower than the survey results suggested. Respondents "tend to overestimate their own knowledge, so these figures may well underestimate their lack of knowledge," he said.
The survey found that public attitudes toward Muslims have grown more negative in recent years, with 35% of respondents expressing an unfavorable view. In 2002, the figure was 29%. Respondents who knew a Muslim or who were college graduates were more likely to express positive views about Islam.
But the belief that Islam encourages violence has increased even among groups that have relatively favorable views of Muslims. According to the survey, college graduates are just as likely as those with no college experience to associate violence with Islam.
"We're not surprised," said Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It's difficult to remove the tarnish of twisted interpretations of terrorists from what Islam means." (MORE)