Americans overwhelmingly support safeguarding religious liberties for Christian believers, but they're less keen on protecting Muslims' religious liberties, a new national survey found.
The poll, from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 82% of Americans consider it extremely or very important to protect Christians' freedoms, while only 61% think it's important to protect Muslims' freedoms.
While Republicans were slightly less willing to support religious liberty protections for Muslims, preference for Christians' religious liberties transcends the partisan divide. According to the poll, 88% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats see Christians' religious freedoms as important, compared with 60% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats who think it's also important to protect Muslims' religious liberties.
The findings come as no surprise to Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"It's to be expected that people would favor the rights of their own group above others," Hooper told Mic. What most concerns CAIR, he said, is the larger political context of anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Hate crimes against American Muslims have spiked since the attacks, stoked, Hooper argued, by inflammatory political rhetoric.
"American Muslims have never been more fearful, including in the aftermath of 9/11," Hooper said. "And that's because of the mainstreaming of Islamophobia from people like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Rick Santorum. It's no longer on the fringe anymore."
The starkest manifestation of Islamophobia came earlier this month, when Trump, the GOP frontrunner, proposed a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that while voters overall opposed the ban 60% to 36%, Republicans supported it 59% to 38%.
Trump's supporters are striking in their support for draconian restrictions on American Muslims: A Public Policy Polling survey this month found that while GOP primary voters overall supported keeping Islam itself legal by a margin of 53% to 26%, only 33% of Trump voters thought Islam should be legal, while 42% wanted the religion banned.