Hindus not regarded warmly by Americans: Pew poll
Hindu-Americans are not regarded as warmly as Jewish people, Catholics, Evangelical Christians and Buddhists, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre, which noted that Hindus here were given an average rating of 50 on a scale of 100, and lower still when ranked by Evangelical Christians.
The Pew poll on ‘How Americans Feel About Religious Groups,’ released last week was based on a survey conducted between May 30 and June 30, 2014, among 3,217 adults who were part of Pew’s ‘New American Trends’ panel, said to be a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults.
Those rated below Hindus included Mormons (48), Atheists (41) and Muslims (40). Jewish people, Catholics and Evangelical Christians respectively received ratings of 63, 62, and 61.
The poll results provoked a backlash in some quarters, with leaders of the Hindu American Foundation expressing “concern that much of the American public holds negative views of Hindus,” especially, HAF said, since “Americans as a whole know little about Hinduism, and those who do hold mixed views.”
Suhag Shukla, HAF’s Executive Director said, “Unfortunately, lack of knowledge allows the public to stereotype Hinduism, focusing on caste and cows, and ignoring the vast spiritual base of the religion. Such stereotypes, also reflected in the media and textbooks, lead to the bullying of Hindu school children, and can feed into anti-Hindu hate crimes.”
Although Pew described Hindu-Americans’ rating as “neutral on average,” HAF underscored that those unfamiliar with the religion negatively rated Hindus at 47 on the “feeling thermometer.”
This relatively low rating was given despite the exponential growth in the Hindu American population and the growing popularity of the Hindu practices such as yoga and Ayurveda, HAF said in a statement, and only 22 per cent of Americans said that they knew a practitioner of Hinduism.
The views on Hindus also differed according to the political affiliation of the respondents, Pew observed, and Republicans gave Hindus a rating of 47 whereas Democrats gave them a rating of 54.
However Hindu-Americans appeared to exemplify a community towards which feelings were more positive when respondents personally knew a member of the community. Those who knew a Hindu gave the community a rating of 63, whereas those who did not gave it a rating of 47, on average.
Unlike Christians and Jewish people, Hindus were viewed more positively by younger people than older people, with those in the 18-29 age bracket rating Hindus 54 and those above 65 years of age rating Hindus 46.
Regarding the “negative impressions” towards Muslims, Mormons, and Atheists revealed in the survey, Padma Kuppa, a member of HAF’s Board of Directors said, “Muslims, Mormons, and Atheists, like Hindus, deserve to live in a community that respects their private spiritual beliefs.”