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A Change in Attitudes Toward Muslims? A Bayesian Investigation of Pre and Post 9/11 Public Opinion
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Introduction The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks affected many aspects of the American landscape by stimulating a sense of threat and feelings of anxiety among people (Huddy, Feldman, Taber, and Lahav 2005). American citizens showed greater unity as a response to this heightened sense of vulnerability (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and Solomon 2003). The trust in government and presidential approval ratings skyrock- eted. As unity among citizens and government increased, their evaluations of minori- ties in general, Muslims in particular, decreased substantially shortly after the attacks (Davis 2007). Even though the tolerance in America has increased marginally in the period between 1976 and 1998 (Mondak and Sanders 2003), the terrorist attacks, and the level of perceived threat caused a sharp decline in positive evaluations of minorities. In this paper, we ask a simple question: To what extent does this mood of post 9/11 period influence affect toward Muslims? Did attitudes toward Muslims change sharply after the terrorist attacks? Did the structure explaining Muslim affect change? Our answer is simply no. We expect that Americans’ evaluations of Muslims have always been lower than most of the minority groups in America. We do not deny that there were hate crimes or a focused negativity toward Muslims (or Middle Easterners in general) just after the attacks. But, they were short lived outcomes of an unusual event in the country. By using the Pew datasets conducted both before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we show that the attitudes toward Muslims have not changed at all over time. Americans’ favorability of Muslims has been stable, and negative throughout the period covering the pre and post 9/11 period. In the long run, unlike all journalistic accounts, attitudes toward Muslims have not changed or become hostile due to the 2

Authors: Kalkan, Kerem. and Su, Yu-Sung.
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1
Introduction
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks affected many aspects of the American
landscape by stimulating a sense of threat and feelings of anxiety among people
(Huddy, Feldman, Taber, and Lahav 2005). American citizens showed greater unity
as a response to this heightened sense of vulnerability (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and
Solomon 2003). The trust in government and presidential approval ratings skyrock-
eted. As unity among citizens and government increased, their evaluations of minori-
ties in general, Muslims in particular, decreased substantially shortly after the attacks
(Davis 2007). Even though the tolerance in America has increased marginally in the
period between 1976 and 1998 (Mondak and Sanders 2003), the terrorist attacks,
and the level of perceived threat caused a sharp decline in positive evaluations of
minorities.
In this paper, we ask a simple question: To what extent does this mood of post
9/11 period influence affect toward Muslims? Did attitudes toward Muslims change
sharply after the terrorist attacks? Did the structure explaining Muslim affect change?
Our answer is simply no. We expect that Americans’ evaluations of Muslims have
always been lower than most of the minority groups in America. We do not deny that
there were hate crimes or a focused negativity toward Muslims (or Middle Easterners
in general) just after the attacks. But, they were short lived outcomes of an unusual
event in the country.
By using the Pew datasets conducted both before and after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, we show that the attitudes toward Muslims have not changed at all over time.
Americans’ favorability of Muslims has been stable, and negative throughout the
period covering the pre and post 9/11 period. In the long run, unlike all journalistic
accounts, attitudes toward Muslims have not changed or become hostile due to the
2


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