Wide Angle

People in the US are more likely to accept Muslims than in Western Europe

Americans and Western Europeans have different opinions on Muslims and Islam. While the majority of them say that they are willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, only a lower number of them is for the idea of having a Muslim as a family member.

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In attempt to answer how non-Muslim Americans and Western Europeans see Muslims and Islam, Washington-based think tank Pew Research revealed, Tuesday, a list of numbers recently compiled on both sides of the Atlantic.

Surveys conducted by Pew Research concluded that the majority of people across the US and 15 countries in Western Europe said that having Muslim neighbors is something that they are willing to accept. However, numbers vary when compared to one another.

Western Europe vs. US

89% of non-Muslim Americans interviewed by the think tank said that they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. Only 79% of them, however, said that they have no problem in welcoming a Muslim into their family.

What is surprising about these figures is that Americans are more willingly happy to accept Muslims than Western Europeans. In fact, people in Western Europe have a different opinion when it comes to Muslims. While the share of those willing to accept Muslim neighbors is slightly lower than the one recorded in the US, the people who would be willing to accept Muslims in their families is even lower.

In France for example, only 66% of Pew Research respondents agreed to accept Muslims as family members. In the United Kingdom, people are less interested in the idea, with 53% only. Similar trends are registered among Austrians (54%), Germans (55%) and Italians (43%).

But what makes these people refuse letting Muslims in their lives? According to Pew Research, the numbers compiled could be linked to education. Indeed, the think tank has noticed that the acceptance of Muslims in both the US and Western Europe is a more common tendency among people with more education.

Data compiled by the research center show that in the United States adults with a college degree are more willing to accept Muslims as family members that those who never went to university (75%).

Slightly similar trends have been observed in Western Europe, where the majority of people with a college education say they would be willing to accept a Muslim in their family, compared to those without one. In Germany, the UK and Austria the figures are as follows : 67% vs. 52%, 71% vs. 44% and 67 vs. 51%.

Is Islam a mainstream religion in the US and Western Europe?

The think tank attributes these differences to several other aspects, including politics and demographic factors. When it comes to politics, Pew Research indicates that «in Western Europe, those who lean toward the right of the European political spectrum have less accepting views than those who lean toward the left».

The same thing goes for the US, where «those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (88% vs. 67%)».

But the way the people see Muslims can also be linked to how they view Islam when compared to their cultures and values. While the majority of people in both the US and Western Europe are willing to accept Muslims, they tend to have mixed feelings about Islam.

Some of them see the religion as incompatible with their Western-like lifestyle and values. Indeed, while half of American say that Islam is not part of mainstream American society, 44% of them say that the religion is incompatible with democracy.

The same thing goes for some European countries, including Germany (44%) and the UK, where the public opinion is «divided on this question», Pew Research concludes.

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