Americans are sharply divided about the kind of tone they feel the next president should adopt when discussing Islam, and those divisions lie clearly along partisan lines, according to a Pew poll released Wednesday.
Some 65 percent of surveyed Republicans say the next president should speak bluntly of Islam regardless of generalized criticism, pollsters found. On the other side of the aisle, however, seven in 10 Democrats said the next president should speak carefully about Islamic extremism to avoid criticizing the religion as a whole.
But the difference wasn’t always this stark. Even 2002, soon after the 9/11 attacks, Republicans and Democrats perceived American Muslims similarly: About 40 percent in each party felt that very few Muslims, if any, living in the US have anti-American tendencies. Flash forward 14 years, and for those on the right, that figure is now 29 percent, while it’s 54 percent for the liberals.
That shift in public opinion is reflected in – and arguably amplified by – Republican presidential contenders' swift criticism of Obama's visit.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was among the first to criticize Mr. Obama for his trip. When asked on Fox News Channel about the president's excursion, he said, "Maybe he feels comfortable there.