White Evangelicals More Likely to Watch Fox, Fear Shari’ah Law

Public Religion Research Institute is out with a new poll on Americans’ attitudes towards the hearings planned by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Peter King (R-NY) into what he claims is extremism in the American Muslim community.

While the headline on the survey results is “Majority of Americans Say Congressional Hearings on Alleged Extremism In Muslim Communities Are ‘Good Idea,’” the data actually show not that many respondents had actually heard about King’s hearings. The group that was most likely to have heard about them: Fox News viewers.

“Very few have heard about the King hearings,” said Robert P. Jones, president of PRRI. “Only one-third have heard anything at all, and 65% said they’d heard nothing at all.” The survey shows, said Jones, a “context of low information.”

Although 56% said they thought the hearings were a “good idea,” seven out of 10 respondents said the hearings shouldn’t single out Muslim extremism. When asked whether hearings should focus on religious extremism, not just Muslim extremism, said Jones, 72% agreed. They “don’t want Congress to be bigoted,” he added.

But of the 22% of respondents who believe “assertions that American Muslims want to establish Shari’a or Muslim law as the law of the land in the U.S.,” Jones noted distinct partisan divisions, much like distinctions between Americans who believe false claims that President Obama is a Muslim. Nearly one-third of Republicans believe the shari’ah law assertion, compared to 15% of Democrats.

Jones noted a “significant Fox News effect,” pointing to his data that 23% of respondents identified Fox News as their “most trusted” source of broadcast news. Among those folks,” said Jones, “they’re much more likely to have heard about hearings, think they’re a good idea, and they are about two times as likely to affirm the statement” about shari’ah law (35%, as opposed to 22% of the entire sample).

Broken down by religious group, said Jones, white evangelicals stand out: one-third of white evangelicals — who are also more likely than other religious groups to watch Fox — believe the statement about shari’ah law.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email