Danger and Dialogue

Danger and Dialogue

American Catholic Opinion and Public Portrayals of Islam

This report aims to shed light on American Catholic discourse about Islam, and to provide a first-time look into the views and opinions American Catholics have about Islam and its followers.

bridge_cathreport_cover-pageDanger and Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam

By Jordan Denari Duffner
The Bridge Initiative
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
Georgetown University
© 2016

Key Findings

American Catholics’ Views of Islam and Interfaith Dialogue

  • Nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and
    Islam, or say explicitly that there are no commonalities.
  • When asked about their overall impression of Muslims, three in ten Catholics admit to having unfavorable views. Only 14% of Catholics say they have favorable views. 45% have “neither favorable nor unfavorable” views. 11% are unsure.
  • Catholics are less likely than the general American public to know a Muslim personally.
  • A majority of Catholics correctly identify prayer and fasting as important parts of Muslim life, but also incorrectly
    believe that Muslims worship the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Catholics who know a Muslim personally, or who have participated in dialogue or community service with Muslims, often have very different views about Islam and interfaith dialogue than those who haven’t interacted with Muslims.
  • Those surveyed who consume content from Catholic media outlets have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.

Catholic Media Outlets’ Portrayal of Islam Online

  • From October 2014 to September 2015, nearly 800 articles referencing Islam or Muslims appeared on major American Catholic websites.
  • In prominent Catholic outlets, half of the time the word “Islamic” is used, it is in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group.
  • The headlines of Catholic articles dealing with Islam have a negative sentiment overall, and the primary emotion conveyed is anger. Of the online Catholic outlets examined, Catholic Answers and Catholic Culture had the most negative sentiment in their titles related to Islam. Only one outlet had positive headlines about Islam: American Catholic.
  • Often, the words, gestures, and activities of Pope Francis frame discussions of Islam in Catholic outlets. Mentioning Pope Francis often, or not at all, seems to impact the sentiment conveyed in headlines about Islam. The outlets with the most negative sentiment in their headlines about Islam were also those that mention Pope Francis the least, and the outlet with the most positive sentiment mentioned Pope Francis the most.

Summary Report:  Key Findings  (2 pages)bridge_cathreport-pope-francis-10

Detailed Report:  Danger and Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam (146 pages)

A Response by Archbishop Blase Cupich

Archbishop says dialogue urgent to fight dim Catholic attitudes on Islam