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WASHINGTON - Americans are conflicted on Islam, a new poll showed Tuesday, revealing a sharp




A raw nerve over US attitudes toward Islam

New poll reveals sharp drop in support for Muslim faith since 2005 even though less see it as violent.

drop in support for the Muslim faith since 2005 even though less people see it as a violent religion.

A slim majority (51 percent) objected to the building of an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

But 62 percent of the 1,003 people surveyed last week by the respected Pew Research Center agreed that Muslims should have the same rights as other groups to build houses of worship in local communities.

In July 2005, 41 percent of those questioned in a similar poll had a favorable opinion of Islam. That number plummeted to just 30 percent in Tuesday's survey.

However, the percentage that were unfavorable to Islam rose only slightly from 36 percent to 38 percent, and almost a third of those questioned said they didn't know how they felt about the Muslim faith.

Last year, 38 percent of those polled said they thought Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. That number had slipped to 35 percent in the latest poll.

But fewer people, 42 percent rather than 45 percent, believed the inverse was true and almost a quarter were now undecided on Islam's propensity to drive violent behavior.

The results, as in the past, were partisan. By a ratio of more than two-to-one, Republicans had an unfavorable opinion of Islam, whereas 41 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of the faith.

Almost three-quarters of the Republicans polled (74 percent) were opposed to the construction of an Islamic center and mosque just a few blocks from Ground Zero, while only 39 percent of Democrats objected.

Several hundred protesters staged rival demonstrations Sunday for and against the controversial mosque building plans, some brandishing signs against Islam and others denouncing religious bigotry.

The protests reflect an intensifying national debate that has exposed a raw nerve over US attitudes toward Islam nearly nine years after Al-Qaeda militants flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 people.

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