What Is Islamophobia? Disentangling Citizens’ Feelings Towards Ethnicity, Religion and Religiosity Using a Survey Experiment

36 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2017

See all articles by Marc Helbling

Marc Helbling

University of Bamberg

Richard Traunmüller

Goethe University Frankfurt

Date Written: January 26, 2017

Abstract

What citizens think about Muslim immigrants is of great importance for some of the most pressing challenges facing Western democracies. To advance our understanding of what “Islamophobia” really is – i.e. whether it is a dislike based on immigrants’ ethnic background, their religious identity or their specific religious behaviour – we fielded a representative online survey experiment in the UK in the summer 2015. Our results suggest that in general Muslims are not viewed more negatively than Christian immigrants. Instead, we provide evidence that citizens’ uneasiness with Muslim immigration is first and foremost the result of a rejection of fundamentalist forms of religiosity. This suggests that common explanations, which are based on simple dichotomies between liberal supporters and conservative critics of immigration need to be re-evaluated. While the politically left and culturally liberal have more positive attitudes towards immigrants than right leaning and conservatives, they are also far more critical towards religious groups. We conclude that a large part of the current political controversy over Muslim immigration has to do with this double opposition. Importantly, the current political conflict over Muslim immigration is not so much about immigrants versus natives or even Muslim versus Christians as it is about political liberalism versus religious fundamentalism.

Keywords: Public Opinion; Muslim Immigration; Islamophobia; Survey Experiment

Suggested Citation

Helbling, Marc and Traunmüller, Richard, What Is Islamophobia? Disentangling Citizens’ Feelings Towards Ethnicity, Religion and Religiosity Using a Survey Experiment (January 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2906451 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2906451

Marc Helbling (Contact Author)

University of Bamberg ( email )

Feldkirchenstrasse 21
Bamberg, 96045
Germany

Richard Traunmüller

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )

Grüneburgplatz 1
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
Germany

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