a fundamental question: are those who carry out acts of violence in the name of a religion true followers of that religion, or not? A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute, and a new joint report by PRRI and the Brookings Institution, reveals that Americans literally apply a double standard when answering this question, depending on whether the perpetrator is Christian or Muslim. More than 8-in-10 (83 percent) Americans say that those who commit violence in the name of Christianity are not truly Christian. On the other hand, less than half (48 percent) of Americans extend this same principle to Muslims and say that those who commit violence in the name of Islam are not truly Muslim.
One way of quantifying the double standard is to evaluate the percentage point difference between a group’s willingness to affirm the religious identity of self-proclaimed Christian perpetrators vs. self-proclaimed Muslim perpetrators. This double standard gap is, not surprisingly, most pronounced among those who self-identify as Christian, but different Christian groups employ stronger double standards than others. For example, among white evangelical Protestants, the gap is a staggering 47 percentage points: only 10 percent of evangelicals believe that a self-identified Christian perpetrators are really Christian, compared to 57 percent who believe that self-identified Muslim perpetrators are truly Muslim.
The double standard gap for other Christian groups is also large but significantly lower than the gap among white evangelical Protestants: 27 points each for Catholics and white mainline Protestants, and 23 points for black Protestants. Non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans-a composite group that includes Muslims along with Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and other minority religions-has the most consistent approach to these questions, with a double standard gap of only 14 points.
The double standard gap also differs by political party affiliation. The double standard gap is 45 points for both Republicans and Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, nearly double the size of the gap among Independents (25 points) and Democrats (23 points).
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