Survey: Americans and Europeans accepting of Muslims, less accepting of Islam

The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans (89%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbours and 79% say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

In Western Europe, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbours. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members.

While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this.

Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%).

Both in the U.S. and Europe, the surveys find higher acceptance of Muslims among those with more education. In the U.S., for example, 86% of adults with a college degree would be willing to accept a Muslim into their family; among Americans without a college degree, this share falls to 75%.

Similarly, in Germany, a majority of those with a college education (67%) say they would be willing to accept a Muslim in their family, compared with roughly half (52%) among those without one. The same pattern is present in other countries, such as the UK (71% vs. 44%) and Austria (67% vs. 51%).

On both sides of the Atlantic, attitudes toward Muslims are tied to politics, even after taking education, age and other demographic factors into account.

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. Likewise, in the U.S., 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%).

While majorities of Americans and Western Europeans have accepting views toward Muslims, they are more divided on whether to accept Islam in their societies.

Europeans in several countries are about as likely to say: “Islam is fundamentally incompatible with [their country’s] culture and values” as they are to take the view that “there is no fundamental contradiction between Islam and [their country’s] culture and values.”

This is the case, for example, in Germany – where 44% of Germans see a fundamental contradiction between Islam and German culture and values, compared with 46% who do not see a contradiction. In the UK, public opinion also is divided on this question.

Muslims make up roughly 1% of the adult population in the U.S., while across Europe as a whole (including Eastern Europe), they are estimated to form roughly 5% of the population, including 6% in the UK and Germany, and nearly 9% in France.

Also, 46% of American adults say they personally know a Muslim, compared with significant majorities in most Western European countries, including 71% in the UK and 79% in France.

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