Why do Muslims Like Obama?

In 2008, Muslims in America overwhelmingly disapproved of the job George Bush was doing as the now ex-President had a mere 7% approval rating. That is hardly surprising. The economy was in dire straits at the time, America was embroiled in wars against two predominantly Muslim countries and the intelligence community had a nasty habit of holding threats to the nation, many of whom happened to be Muslim, indefinitely in places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Of course these were not merely the gripes of one segment of society; Bush's approval ratings at the time were incredibly poor among all the major religious groups in the country. Indeed, among the major religions, the only group which viewed Bush overall favorably was the Mormons, and that only at a 52% clip.

Fast forward to 2011. The economy is, if at all possible, more precariously perched than it was in 2008. America is still involved in two wars against predominantly Muslim countries. Intelligence and military officials still find Guantanamo Bay to be a pretty convenient place to hold potential threats to the US. There is a president in office with very poor favorability ratings among the general public. In other words, the overall tide is against Obama and main factors which led to Muslims disliking Bush are still in play. However, despite this, the favorability rating of the sitting president among the Muslim population is sky high, recently found to be 80%.*

The question we would ask is why? Why do Muslims favor Obama so highly? There is a historic connection between Obama and the faith (though he is a declared Christian at this point). However, this does not seem like it would account for such an incredibly large difference when many of the nation's policies are the same as they were in 2008. Other religious groups' favorability ratings of Obama in 2011 are higher than Bush in 2008 as well, but not nearly as dramatically. Therefore it isn't part of a broader increase. For those familiar with investment terms, there is clearly some 'alpha' involved in Muslim's approval rating of the President. We just can't manage to figure out why.

We managed to violate both golden rules of polite dinner conversation with this post (ie no religion or politics). However we have crossed the Rubicon, and what is done is done. Therefore we would invite our readers to have a go at the question presented in the title of the post in the comments section.

*Both of the links in the piece lead to a Gallup report examining U.S. Muslims' political, social and spiritual engagement a decade after 9/11.


  1. - Maybe because his second name is "Hussein"? ;)
    - Maybe because of ongoing right-wing propaganda claiming Obama is "muslim"?
    - Maybe because of his Cairo declaration / speech ?
    - Maybe because he didn't take action against the mosque at Ground Zero and even handled it as a legitimate expression of democratic liberties?

  2. Josh Sturtevant15/8/11 07:57

    Excellent...that might start to get us somewhere. But 80%? That is tough for me to see. In some polls among the general population, his approval ratings have dipped below 40%!

    Incidentally, assuming your second bullet is as effective as you believe, I hope our readers could appreciate the irony of a vast right-wing 'Obama is a Muslim' campaign resulting in his having an 80% approval rate among Muslims...

  3. In Germany the social democrats (SPD) have highest approval rates among muslims although their political programme is rather secular. The traditional Christian Democratic party (CDU), which promotes more conservative positions (family, values, tradition, ...), is very much disliked by them.

    Political analysts here assume the social democrats might not cut social aid or other state transfers or even increase them. Since most muslims here depend on social aid (since they tend to have no education and thus stay unemployed) they mostly vote for the social democrats (in case they obtained the German citizenship). :) Any similarities oversea?

    By the way I will travel to Romania at the end of August ;)

  4. Josh Sturtevant16/8/11 11:19

    Interesting thoughts.

    I would not say that I am well-enough acquainted with the education/socioeconomic statistics for Muslims in the US to answer whether or not there are similarities with their counterparts in Germany.

    I can say, however, that many minority groups in the US vote for the Democrats rather than the Republicans for much the same reason as you note...namely a strong prevalence of social aid dependence among those groups, something that Democrats are far more likely to support.

    Assuming that this has something to do with it, and combining it with the other factors you noted, we might be getting a little closer to 80% now!

    Have fun is Romania...is boar going to be on the menu?