Survey: Large divide between US Muslims, Evangelicals

FFEU shows differing perceptions of Trump's performance, US policy on Israel among Evangelical Christians and Muslims.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

File: Evangelical prayer session at ICEJ event, 2012
File: Evangelical prayer session at ICEJ event, 2012

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) released a first of a kind study today that shows that Evangelical Christian and Muslim relations is the greatest interreligious challenge in America today. The study found that Evangelicals have little interest in interacting or learning more about Muslims.

While more than half of Muslims regularly interact with Christians and believe that interaction has led to better understanding between the groups, only 22-percent of Evangelicals share similar experiences.

Both Muslims and Evangelicals see room for improvement in their relationship with the other group. The two groups share similar religious values such as daily prayer, family and improving the world and see these three commonalities as a way to bond and improve relations. Despite this, Evangelicals are more likely to see differences between the two religions. Frequent interactions lead to more perceived similarities between the groups. Evangelicals show low familiarity of Muslim terms/holidays, but many of those familiar with Muslims and Islam are able to correctly define these terms such as Ramadan, hijab and sharia.

Evangelicals and Muslims alike acknowledge that Muslims have been discriminated against because of their faith and agree that there is anti-Muslim sentiment in the Evangelical Christian community. Sixty-two percent of Evangelicals report there is anti-Muslim sentiment in their own community. With this in mind, when asked if Muslim holidays should be observed in the United States with a day off from work/school like Christmas is, fifty-seven percent of Evangelicals say that they shouldn’t be observed.

The study also examined U.S. political and geopolitical issues that unite and divide the two faiths:

  • President Trump – Muslims did not vote for President Trump and three in four express disapproval of his performance in office (58-percent strong disapproval); Evangelicals voted for and continue to support the president.
  • The Travel Ban – Evangelicals and Muslims do not agree on the travel ban. Evangelicals are more likely to support it (61-percent), while Muslims consider it a “Muslim ban” (70-percent).
  • Migrant Caravan – Evangelicals and Muslims do not agree on the issue of the migrant caravan – 58-percent of Evangelicals see it as a threat, while Muslims do not.
  • Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Evangelicals (57-percent) tend to approve of President Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA and re-impose economic sanctions on Iran, while Muslims are not nearly as supportive.
  • Jamal Khashoggi – Both Muslims (52-percent) and Evangelicals (55-percent) fault Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s death, but Muslims are more critical of President Trump’s response to the event.
  • Israel and 'Palestine' –
    • Across both religions, over half either blame both Israelis and Palestinians or don’t have an opinion, signaling a potential area for common ground.
    • Muslims (58-percent) are more optimistic for a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
    • Evangelicals strongly support U.S. policies towards Israel-including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem – while Muslims do not.
  • Muslim Countries Support for Israel – Both groups are receptive toward Muslim nations cooperating with and supporting Israel (82-percent of Evangelicals and 72-percent of Muslims). Evangelicals tend to perceive lower levels of support for Israel among Muslim nations.

“Evangelical Christian-Muslim relations is today’s largest interreligious challenge and the poll shows that there are causes for concern and elements of hope and optimism on both sides to narrow the divide between the two faith communities,” said FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier. “As a next step towards bridging this divide, I recently led a mission of the leading Evangelical Christian leaders from the United States to Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country, which is a leading advocate for interreligious dialogue and coexistence so that we can start bridging the gap.”

The FFEU, in partnership with PSB Research, conducted a national online survey of 1,000 total respondents (500 self-identified American Evangelical Christians and 500 self-identified American Muslims) between January 3rd-15th, 2019.

Founded in 1989, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations and the national address for African American-Jewish relations. The organization is committed to the belief that direct dialogue between ethnic communities is the most effective path towards reconciliation.