Between 2015 and 2016, hate crimes against Muslims rose significantly in the United States, surpassing the peak after the September 11 attacks. Much of the current Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric contributing to these crimes has been attributed to President Donald Trump and his administration.
In a striking new study by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group (DFVP), nearly 20% of Americans are in favor of denying Muslims the right to vote. Policies and laws specifically targeting Muslims within and outside of the United States have garnered broad support, helping to further categorize Muslims as the “Other.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has also documented the rise of anti-Muslim groups in recent years, many of which receive either direct or indirect support from government and media.
Despite the stereotypes and bigotries they are forced to endure, 92% of Muslim Americans are “proud to be  American,” with 84% expressing a strong sense of American identity according to a 2016 Social Policy and Understanding poll. Still, a broader change in social attitudes toward Islam and Muslims, positive representation in the media, and inclusive laws are needed to help support and protect Muslim Americans.
Unfavorable views of Muslim Americans are more prevalent among Republicans and conservatives, as well as among people with a more circumscribed view of American identity — such as those who believe that being Christian is important to being American, or those who believe that ethnic diversity is harming the United States. Less favorable views of Muslims are also tied to less favorable views of many other minority groups, demonstrating how prejudicial feelings are part of a broader “syndrome” that includes not only Muslims but also Jews, black people, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians.
Finally, there is substantial support for policies targeting Muslims — including restrictions on travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries, surveillance of mosques in the U.S., and screenings at airports. Nearly one-in-five Americans would even deny Muslims who are U.S. citizens the right to vote. The civil rights and liberties of Muslim Americans have a tenuous status in American public opinion.
Thus, the social equality of Muslims faces significant hurdles. These hurdles will be even harder to overcome given our present political discourse, when harsh characterizations of Muslims come not only from the fringes of American political life, but from elected officeholders at all levels of government.