WASHINGTON – Most Americans say they know little to nothing about the practices of Islam and Mormonism but say their own religious beliefs have little in common with either of these faiths, according to a national survey released Tuesday.
Forty-five percent of those polled said Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. Nearly one in three respondents say Mormonism is not a Christian religion, the report said.
The survey of 3,002 Americans was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. It is available at www.pewforum.org.
Although 58 percent of respondents said they knew little or nothing about Islamic practices, 70 percent of non-Muslims said Islam is very different from their own religion.
The survey said that public attitudes toward Muslims have grown more negative in recent years, with 35 percent of respondents expressing an unfavorable view toward Muslims. In 2002, the figure was 29 percent. Respondents who knew a Muslim were more likely to express positive views about Islam, as were college graduates.
The survey said Americans are similarly uninformed about Mormonism. Although 53 percent of those surveyed expressed a favorable view of Mormons, nearly the same amount (51 percent) said they knew very little about the faith.
As in the case of Islam, respondents with higher educational backgrounds and those who knew a Mormon tended to view Mormonism more favorably. But even more important in respondents’ assessment of Mormons was whether they believe Mormonism to be a Christian religion, according to the survey.
“Every faithful follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tries to emulate Christ’s example in his or her own life,” said Michael Otterson, director of media relations for the church in Salt Lake City. “If that isn’t enough to satisfy people that need a particularly narrow definition of Christianity, then maybe there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Of the 31 percent of respondents who said Mormons are not Christians, almost half (49 percent) view Mormonism unfavorably, and 42 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon for president.
Pew Forum senior fellow John Green said the survey results suggest that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon and Republican presidential candidate, could face difficulty persuading white evangelical Protestants to vote for him because nearly 40 percent of those surveyed view Mormons unfavorably.