A Change in Attitudes Toward Muslims? A Bayesian Investigation of Pre and Post 9/11 Public Opinion
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ing support for military action against terrorists (Huddy, Khatib, and Capelos 2002).
The same surveys display that people “possess lingering resentment and reservations
about Arab and Muslim Americans” (Panagopoulos 2006, 613). For example, “very
unfavorable” ratings of Muslim Americans, in the Princeton Survey Research Asso-
ciates datasets, almost doubled between November 2001 and February 2002, whereas
“very favorable” ratings decreased in half.
Not surprisingly, the levels of perceived threat increased dramatically in the same
period (Huddy, Feldman, Taber, and Lahav 2005; Davis 2007). Post 9/11 data show
that the level of perceived threat increased considerably when compared with pre
9/11 levels. For example, the 2000 Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll show that only 4%
of Americans are “very worried” about becoming a victim of a terrorist attack. The
ratio increased to 23% on the day of the attacks, and stayed around 13% through
November 2001 (by Gallup/CNN/USA Today). The simultaneous occurrence of neg-
ative evaluations of Muslims and the surge in threat perception is not coincidental.
Threat, “regardless of whether [it] is deﬁned as a widely acknowledged external force
or a subjective, perceived state,” causes higher intolerance, prejudice, ethnocentrism,
and xenophobia (Huddy, Feldman, Taber, and Lahav 2005, 594). Terrorist attacks,
in particular, stimulate patriotic sentiments like importance of national identity and
attachment to fellow citizens (Turner 1987). National symbols and rallying around
the ﬂag are important indicators of increased threat level, and hence patriotism. As a
clear signal of heightened patriotism, external threat increases the approval ratings of
powerful and strong political ﬁgures (McCann 1997). For example, President Bush’s
approval ratings had been around 50% before the 9/11 attacks. It became 92% in a
survey conducted by the ABC/Washington Post on October 15, 2001.
Perceived or external threat has important implications for intergroup relations