Friday, April 18, 2008

Muslims, atheists, and scientologists

What do they have all in common? Apparently they are all viewed negatively by Americans (according to Gallup). Here is the table with other religious groups: Scientologists have a serious PR problem, and Tom Cruise videos are not really working. But atheists with 45% negative rating! But, these views regarding atheists haven't really changed from the 2006 survey, when this was at 44%. This is a bit odd as the last two year hasve seen a substantial increase in the discussion over atheism in the media along with bestsellers from Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. So we should have expected some change one way or the other - but may be there is a lag and we will see an effect in the next couple of years. While, most religious groups have seen a decline in net positive value since 2006, Muslims take the cake - going down from 4% net negative in 2006 to 17%.

Gallup first asked Americans to rate these religious groups in this fashion in an August 2006 panel survey, and since then, there have been declines in positive ratings for many of the more favorably viewed religious groups. For example, the net positive score for Catholics was +44 in the 2006 survey, compared to the current +32. But there were also declines in the net positive scores of Jews (from +54 to +42), Baptists (from +45 to +35), and Methodists (from +50 to +45).

It is unclear why the net positive ratings for most groups have declined, unless Americans are just less positive about religion overall today than they were two years ago. Groups such as atheists and Scientologists that rated negatively in 2006 are still rated negatively today, with similar scores over time in most cases. One exception concerns Muslims, who saw their net rating tumble from -4 in 2006 to -17 in the current survey.

Read more about the survey here, and here is a link to the 2006 survey. (tip from Framing Science)