Mind the Gaps: Assessing Transatlantic Variation in Muslim Public Opinion
18 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 28 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2009
A growing conventional wisdom holds that while the Muslim American community is largely integrated into the mainstream of American life, Europe’s Muslims remain a community set apart, and may pose a dangerous source of home-grown terrorism. This paper uses polling conducted by the Pew Research Center from 2005-2006 to test the claim that there are transatlantic gaps in Muslim public opinion. I argue that such gaps are best understood at the country level, rather than the continental level, with variation within Europe proving as significant as that between European countries and the United States. Factor analysis reveals distinct dimensions of Muslim public opinion; attitudes that I call Westernization stand apart from those that indicate Alienation. Multivariate regression of individual survey questions and these factor scores reveals consistent patterns, with wide country-based variation on both levels of Westernization and Alienation. In addition, factors such as youth, under-education, and high religious observance are consistently associated with more extremist opinion, while other features such as sex and income level have less consistent impacts. My analysis closes with qualitative investigation of potential explanations for country-level variation. I isolate three factors of particular importance: the civic or ethnic nature of a country’s national identity, the variety of secularism that a state has inherited from its state-formation period, and the distance of a state from sources of radicalism in the Middle East.
Keywords: Islam, Immigration, Secularism, Religion and Politics
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