November 18, 2009

Modest Rise in Concern About Islamic Extremism

Post-Fort Hood

Overview

The public continues to express concern about the rise of Islamic extremism in the United States and abroad, but a survey taken shortly after the deadly Nov. 5 shootings at the Fort Hood Army base shows only a modest increase in these concerns since 2007.

Just more than half (52%) of Americans say they are very concerned about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the United States. That is up from 46% in April 2007. The percentage that says they are somewhat worried dropped slightly from 32% in 2007 to 27%. There has been no significant change in the small percentages who say they are not too worried or not worried at all about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the United States.

Public concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world largely mirror levels measured in April 2007, according to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Nov. 12-15 among 1,003 Americans reached on landlines and cell phones. Today, 49% say they are very concerned about this, compared with 48% in April 2007. Nearly three-in-ten (29%) say they are somewhat concerned, compared with 33% in the 2007 survey.

In recent weeks, the public has paid close attention to the shootings at the Texas Army base that left 13 dead and a Muslim Army psychiatrist charged with the killings. According to the Pew Research Center’s News Interest Index, the public followed the story more closely than any other news the week of the tragedy and continues to closely follow the investigation into the shooting in this week’s News Interest Index.

The Fort Hood shootings came amid an increase in the past year in reports about alleged terror plots or actions undertaken by people within the U.S. said to oppose U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In September, for example, an Afghan-born Muslim man and Denver resident – who reportedly received training and weapons from al-Qaeda in Pakistan – was arrested as part of an alleged bombmaking scheme.

Still, the survey shows no sea change in the population as a whole and only modest political and demographic changes in concerns over increasing Islamic extremism in the United States. Currently, a majority of political independents (55%) say they are very concerned by the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S., up from 43% in 2007. About two-thirds of Republicans (65%) express this view, not much different from the 59% who said this two years ago. There has been virtually no change in opinions among Democrats (44% very concerned today, 46% in 2007).

Young people continue to express far lower levels of concern about the rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S. than do older age groups. Slightly more than a third of those younger than 30 (36%) say they are very concerned about this, compared with 60% of those 65 and older and 65% of those ages 50 to 64.

More than half of those with no college experience (55%) say they are very concerned about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S., compared with 46% of college graduates.

Cite this publication: “Modest Rise in Concern About Islamic Extremism.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (November 18, 2009) http://www.people-press.org/2009/11/18/modest-rise-in-concern-about-islamic-extremism/, accessed on July 22, 2014.