Who Speaks for Islam–a New Book by the Gallup Poll

The Gallup Polling outfit has a new book out based on a massive (over 50,000 respondents) recent poll on attitudes amongst the world’s approximately 1.3 billion Muslims. Let us allow the publishers to describe the content themselves:

islamwld.jpgGallup’s largest study of Muslim populations worldwide challenges conventional wisdom and the inevitability of a global conflict as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. Despite widespread media coverage of global terrorism from America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia, little is known about what majorities of the world’s Muslims really think and feel. What do Muslims say about violence and terrorist attacks? What do they say about democracy, women, and relations with the West? What are their values, goals, and religious beliefs?

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed (Gallup Press; March 2008; hardcover) sheds new light into the “increasing hostility” that Archbishop Tutu characterizes.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U.S. public officials seemed to have no idea whether or not many Muslims supported the bombings. This troubled Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, who felt that “no one in Washington had any idea what 1.3 billion Muslims were thinking, and yet we were working on intricate strategies that were going to change the world for all time.” Clifton commissioned his company to undertake the enormous job.

The result is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations.

Some of the more intriguing findins?

  • Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
  • Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution AND they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
  • Muslims around the world say that what they LEAST admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
  • When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
  • Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Note: the map above is from Professor Juan Cole.  The colors refer to the percentage of inhabitants of each state who are Muslims.

Do Americans view China as an Emerging Strategic Threat?

China’s miraculous economic growth has become a source of concern for some Americans who hold a realist view of international politics. The argument is that the increase in economic prowess will lead (is leading) to an increase in military power and a heightened strategic threat to the predominance of the United States in global affairs. How concerned is the average American with China’s emergence on the international scene? One of the best places to find the answer to this question, and to all questions related to the public’s views regarding international affairs is the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The Council has archived on its website reports on public attitudes going all the way back to 1975. An important virtue of these surveys is that they disaggregate elite opinion from the rest of the public.

As for Americans’ views of China, in the 2006 survey slightly more than one-third of Americans viewed China as a strategic threat (click on the chart below for a larger image). Not surprisingly, almost 3/4 of Americans viewed international terrorism as a strategic threat to US interests, putting that issue at number one. Click the link above for the whole report, which polled the public on other issues, such as international trade, immigration, and global warming.

Chicago Council Survey 2006