Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Blog

By Myles Teasley
Summer Intern, 2014

In a live-stream event on July 29th, Dr. Jim Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, and Matt Duss, incoming President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, released a new Zogby Analytics poll on American Attitudes Toward Arabs and Muslims.

Dr. Zogby’s own words reflect the sobering results: “We’re at the lowest point now since we began polling.”

The continued erosion of the American public’s favorability toward Arab and Muslim Americans is not only an unfortunate development on its own, but in a democracy such as ours, impacts policy. Dr. Zogby declared, “It is not simply a question of who’s up and who’s down. It is a question of the impact of the numbers on the public’s tolerance for certain behaviors.”

Among the more alarming findings of the poll is the estimated 42% of Americans who believe racial profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans is justified. In light of the Greenwald revelations that the NSA and FBI have been spying invasively on American citizens, particularly those of Arab and Muslim heritage, this level of acceptance for racial profiling can have a substantial impact on public policy. Dr. Zogby airs those fears, saying, “the ability [Arab & Muslim Americans] have to mobilize an outraged public is therefore limited” when it comes to surveillance and profiling concerns.

One other stark finding of the poll is the generational, political, and ethnic divide in the United States regarding their attitudes. Americans who are younger, Democratic, and/or people of color, have substantially more favorable attitudes toward Arab and Muslim Americans as a community, and in terms of capability for public service, than older, Republican, and/or white Americans.

Dr. Zogby and Mr. Duss illustrated during their conversation that the polling is reflective of what objective observers of the American political and media landscape can see all the time. Matt Duss noted, “For a part of the American electorate, demonizing Muslims and Arabs is still a political winner. There’s no getting around that.”

The corollary to this is that many Americans do not personally know any Arabs or Muslims, and the polling difference was as much as 33% higher favorability towards Arabs and Muslims when they personally know one or the other group. Americans who say they know either Arabs or Muslims also have greater confidence in their ability to serve in important government positions.  As Matt Duss notes, "a higher visibility of American Arab and Muslim business leaders, political leaders, community leaders" can help change some of these perceptions. "As they become more present in American society," he continued, "it will only help the 'normalization'."

You can view the release video below and see the poll results here.