A survey of Muslim voters in six states has found one surprising result: Donald Trump was the most popular Republican presidential candidate, despite his calls for tighter surveillance of Muslims and limits on Muslim immigration.
The poll, not unexpectedly, found that 67 percent of the respondents support the Democratic Party and 51 percent of them plan to vote for Hillary Clinton. Sen. Bernie Sanders trailed with 22 percent.
But of the 15 percent who said they intended to vote for Republicans, Trump was the first choice, with more than 7 percent of the total.
More than 73 percent of respondents said they plan to vote in their states’ primary elections, an increase from the 69 percent who answered that way in a similar survey taken before the 2014 midterm elections.
Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications
The survey, which was commissioned by the Council on American Islamic Relations and carried out Jan. 26, comprised interviews with 2,000 registered Muslim voters in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia – the states with the largest Muslim populations in the United States.
The council did not identify the “independent automated call service provider” that undertook the survey.
Robert McCaw, the council’s government affairs manager, suggested that the increase in respondents who said they planned to vote was likely “driven, at least in part, by concern over the rise” in anti-Muslim rhetoric since terrorist attacks late last year in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
About 30 percent of the respondents said “Islamaphobia” was their No. 1 concern. The economy and health care ranked No. 2 and No. 3.
Despite the concern over anti-Muslim feelings, Trump was the most popular of the Republicans among the respondents – even with his calls for closing down mosques, monitoring Muslims and barring them from immigrating to the United States.
Support for other Republicans was negligible: Ted Cruz received 2 percent, Jeb Bush 1.57 percent and Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina each received less than 1 percent.
Ibrahim Hooper, the council’s director of communications, called the Trump result puzzling.
“It is not unusual to find Muslim Republicans, because the two are similarly socially conservative,” he said. “But at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric and bigotry is being spewed by Republicans, it is rather unusual.”
Hooper, however, said it was possible that the Trump supporters were unaware of the candidate’s anti-Islam stands. He noted that former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who became the first presidential candidate to visit a mosque in December, was favored by just 0.98 percent of the respondents.
“This is what makes me think that this result could be more about the recognition of Donald Trump’s name than anything,” he said. “People probably do not know of a Martin O’Malley, but they surely know of Donald Trump by default.”
Javaria Khan: @javariakh