So, Which Religious Group Is Most Optimistic About the Future? The Answer May Surprise You

According to a study released on Tuesday by Gallup, Muslim Americans are more optimistic about the future than members of any other religious group in the nation. According to the report, entitled, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future,” although they have optimism about the future, Muslims also say they experience a high level of prejudice and discrimination. PBS’s Newshour has more:

Gallup reports that nearly half of those Muslim Americans surveyed claim that they have experienced racial or religious discrimination in the U.S. The data collected for the study occured over two years of polling and it was conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup CenterCNN has more:

“At 48%, Muslim Americans are by far the most likely of major faith groups surveyed to say they have personally experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year,” the report said. “The next most likely are Mormon Americans, although less than one-third of U.S. Mormons say this.”

Considering the ongoing debate surrounding Islam in America — and across the globe — this claim of religious discrimination is not entirely surprising. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, debates have raged over a proposed mosque at Ground Zero and the role that Islam should play in U.S. society. As a result of numerous violent attacks undertaken by people claiming an allegiance to Islam, uncertainty and distrust have often been instilled in non-Muslims.

In addition to examining Muslims’ perceptions about the issues they face, the report also looked at other religious groups’ attitudes toward Islam. According to CNN:

Thirty-seven percent of American Protestants and 35% of Catholics said they didn’t agree that Muslims living in the United States were loyal to the country.

Nearly all Muslim Americans, 92%, said they believed that Muslims living in United States had no sympathy for al Qaeda, the terror group responsible or the 9/11 attacks.

They are, as a group, critical of counter-terrorism measures imposed since the terror attacks and a large percentage distrust the FBI, the report said.

The differences are startling. Seventy-five percent of Americans of non-Islamic faiths have confidence in the FBI, with only 60 percent of Muslims reporting that they feel the same. Much of this difference may be attributed to the ongoing debate over racial profiling.

While 81 percent of American Muslims believe that it is not possible to determine a terrorist based on “demographic traits,” only 49 percent of non-Muslims agree. With many Americans advocating for racial profiling that essentially distinguishes Arabs, it’s no surprise that Muslims have responded so strongly. Six in 10 Muslims also claim that their American peers pre-judge them based on their ethnic origins.

Interestingly, Gallup reports that Muslims are the least likely religious group to justify military attacks on civilians. On the whole, 78 percent of Muslim Americans say that these sorts of attacks are never justified. Below, see a bar graph that showcases each religion’s take on this issue:

The report does, indeed, highlight some negative perspectives coming from Muslims regarding their faith and the way in which they are viewed by others based on ethnicity. But, when it comes to the future, these Americans see positivity on the horizon.

In 2011, Muslims generally feel that they are better off and have a more hopeful future outlook. Currently, 60 percent say that they are thriving. While this proportion isn’t much different from that found among other religious groups, when it comes to optimism about their lives in the next five years, Muslims top the pack in having a favorable outlook. CNN continues:

Americans overall rate their future a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, but Muslim Americans rate theirs at 8.4, the report said.

Jewish Americans ranked as second most optimistic at 8.0, following by nonreligious, atheists and agnostic respondents at 7.9.

Muslims may be more optimistic due to the fact that they were hurt more during the recession than others, but have also experienced the greatest improvement during economic recovery. Also, the report highlights President Barack Obama’s Muslim roots as one potential factor in their optimism. Coincidentally, they also give Obama an 80 percent approval rating, which tops that of any other religious group.