As Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings on the radicalization of American muslims get underway, a new Pew poll of American adults finds that conservatives and Tea Party sympathizers are the only two political demographics of which a majority believe Islam, more so than any other religion, encourages violence.
Overall, Americans are split fairly evenly on the question. Yet the stark ideological divide reveals how sharply the issue breaks down along party lines, with far more people on the right — and particularly to the far right — viewing Islam as a violent religion.Overall, 40% of Americans think Islam is more likely to incite violence than other religions, while 42% say it is not.
Yet conservatives and tea partiers were the only group in which more people believed Islam was more likely than other religions to incite violence. Fully two-thirds of conservatives said Islam was a more violent religion, while 67% of respondents who identified with the Tea Party movement said the same.
Meanwhile, liberal Democrats overwhelmingly said Islam did not encourage violence any more so than other religions, doing so by a 61% to 29% margin. Moderate Democrats split by a slimmer margin, 48% to 31%, while Independent voters also leaned that way, doing so by a 44% to 38% split.
Even a plurality of moderate Republicans (47% to 46%) said Islam did not encourage more violence than other religions.
Pew generated those partisan breakdowns through demographic questions contained in the poll. The survey asked respondents to identify their party affiliation and then, in a separate question, their ideology, whether conservative, liberal, or moderate.
While public opinion is closely split overall, the partisan breakdown shows how polarizing the issue is. And with the House hearings on Muslim radicalization kicking off today, it forebodes how fractious those hearings could become.
The Pew poll was conducted February 22 through March 1 among 1,504 Americans nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.0%.