Study Highlights Voting Patterns of American Muslims
For the past few months at the RAC, we’ve been very focused on the role that we as Jews can play in the upcoming election. We’ve released our GOTV guide, and many of you have begun to plan candidate forums and debate the hot issues of the day in your congregations.
Last month, a study was released that looks at another crucial religious demographic in the upcoming elections: American Muslims. The study, “Engaging American Muslims: Political Trends and Attitudes,” was conducted by Farid Senzai at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Political participation and interests in elections by American Muslims has not been extensively studied, and their votes are certainly not as catered to as those of American Jews. President Obama has shied away from openly courting their vote because he likely risks reigniting conspiracy theories that he is secretly Muslim, and Mitt Romney also has yet to target ads or other forms of outreach to American Muslims. However this demographic cannot be ignored, as it is made up of approximately 2.6 million people (and studies show that this number could jump to over 6 million in the next 10 years). Moreover, existing studies show that American Muslims have become more engaged in the political process since 9/11.
The new study finds that American Muslims overwhelmingly consider themselves “independent” and reside in some of the most important swing states. As independents, American Muslims are more affected by candidates and political records, as opposed to party labels. While in the 2000 election American Muslims were much more likely to vote for then-Governor George W. Bush, by 2004 this same group voted in much higher percentages for Senator John Kerry.
Although public and political rhetoric has depicted the religious practices and political beliefs of American Muslims as extreme, this study shows that their social views and religious practices are similar to American evangelicals. American Muslims and evangelicals reported similar observance of daily religious rituals and similarly conservative views on social issues like gay marriage and access to abortion. But American Muslims did differ from evangelicals in that the former generally do not believe religion should influence politics.
Finally, although public perception encourages the belief that American Muslims predominately vote based on foreign policy, this study shows that their concerns are focused on domestic issues that affect them and their families. This is particularly true of indigenous American Muslims and second- and third-generation South Asian or Arab Americans. Even for those who have immigrated to America, the longer they stay in the U.S., the more their vote is based on jobs, jobs and jobs.
On that note, the findings of “Engaging American Muslims: Political Trends and Attitudes” are similar to those of “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in April. Much like the rest of the American population, American Jews and Muslims report that the most important issue for them in the upcoming election is the economy—and Democrats and Republicans have largely split on how to handle the twin needs of a robust recovery and reductions in the national debt.