“I think Islam hates us.”
That’s the sweeping statement Donald Trump made Wednesday, after CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked him whether the religion is at war with the West.
“There’s a tremendous hatred there,” Trump said. “We have to get to the bottom of it.” When Cooper asked Trump if he really meant to tar all Muslims, Trump shrugged off the question, saying, “You’re going to have to figure that out, OK?”
So let’s try to get to the bottom of it.
According to the 2015 Pew Global Attitudes survey, three of the five nations or territories with the least favorable opinions of the United States are in the Middle East (Russia and Pakistan are the exceptions). Outside of that region, heavily Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have anti-U.S. attitudes that are more on the level of Germany (45 percent unfavorable) and France (27 percent), respectively. But even nations that tend to have unfavorable opinions of the United States often fall short of hate.
In a Gallup poll conducted between 2006 and 2010, residents of 39 majority-Muslim countries and regions were asked whether they viewed greater interaction between the Muslim world and the West as a benefit or a threat. In all countries but one (Afghanistan), more people saw closer relationships as a benefit than a harm. In half of the countries and regions surveyed, more than 60 percent of residents saw greater interaction as a benefit and less than 35 percent saw closer ties as a threat.
Muslims around the world clearly hate the Islamic State group. In polls conducted in 11 nations and territories with significant Muslim populations1 by the Pew Research Center in April and May 2015, the group’s unfavorables were even worse than Trump’s are among the general electorate. Islamic State drew double-digit favorable ratings in only three nations (Nigeria: 14 percent, Malaysia and Senegal: both 11 percent), and in each of those countries, at least 60 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Islamic State. Vast majorities of Muslims around the world rejected terrorist tactics such as suicide bombing in a larger Pew survey conducted from 2008 to 2012.
But those facts may not carry much weight with many Republicans. In a survey conducted in January, Pew found that 65 percent of Republicans or those who lean Republican want to hear blunt talk about Islam, even if it includes blanket statements about the faith, while 29 percent prefer that politicians be careful not to criticize the faith as a whole. Only 22 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic want politicians to use sweeping statements to criticize Islam, while 70 percent prefer more nuanced approaches.
Republicans may be more willing to use harsh language to describe Islam and Muslims because they believe that language is accurate. In Pew’s survey, Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to say that some religions’ teachings promote violence (32 percent to 15 percent). Republicans were also twice as likely as Democrats to say that most or almost all Muslims in the United States are anti-American (16 percent to 7 percent).
So, when Trump blusters and provokes, some members of his party welcome the lack of nuance. They may continue to see him as speaking the truth that other politicians avoid.
Check out our live coverage of the Republican debate.