The more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims

Preliminary results from the first 2016 wave of the AuSSA survey indicate that the more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims.

First, we measured how much participants were concerned of Muslim, and we found that Islamophobia exists in Australia.


Second, we measured both self-reported knowledge of Islam and factual knowledge of Islam. Specifically, we asked: “how much do you think you know about Islam?”, but we also asked five factual questions about the religion, for example: “Is Jesus a revered Prophet in Islam?”

Unsurprisingly, knowing about Islam and thinking to know about Islam were not the same. In fact, the people who knew more about Islam indicated less prejudice against practicing Muslims, but not the people who thought they knew about Islam. Similarly, knowing more Muslims (for example at work, or at school) was associated with less prejudice against Muslims.

Moreover, we also measured the perceived threat of terrorism, and we found that the people who were more concerned of terrorism were also more concerned about practicing Muslims.

The research, that I conducted with Prof. Fethi Mansouri, is part of the ongoing “Muslims and Islamic Religiosity in the West” ARC research project. You can find the official press release on the website of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.


8 thoughts on “The more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims

  1. Hi, there is a lot of news about this, and mention of a paper in the press release, but I can’t find one. Can you link to the paper or the data?

    I’m also wondering if you’ve asked proper controls for the question about marrying someone of another religion. Religions aren’t equivalent, and many allow interfaith marriage, while Islam does not.

    Perhaps you could ask the control questions: “Would you be concerned if a close relative married someone of another faith that required them to change religion?”

    This would separate out the religious conversion from a specific bias against Islam. Or even fairer: “…required a close relative to change religion, where the official penalty for leaving that religion was death?”


    • Hi Dave
      Thanks for your comment. The paper was presented at the APSA conference at UNSW and the final paper is in the process of being peer-reviewed, as it happens for academic publications. As soon as it is ready to be published, I’ll notify it here in the blog, hopefully very soon.
      However, before the paper comes out, I am happy to answer your questions and give you some more details about the results.
      1- You say that people fear Islam because they know that Islam is more concerning than other religions. Actually, the data show quite the opposite: we found that the level of concern about Muslims was higher in the individuals with lower level of knowledge about Islam. In other words: the people with more negative views of Muslims are the ones who actually know less about Islam as a religion.
      2- If you worry that the question about the marriage does not capture Islamophobia (i.e. fear of Islam), please note that this item has a statistically significant correlation (r = .65) with a six-item scale of prejudice against practising Muslims. This means that the participants who would be more “concerned about a relative marrying a Muslim” are roughly the same who would agree that “Muslims do not fit Australian society”, who would “oppose a Mosque in their neighbourhood”, etc.
      3- We did use many control variables, specifically: age, gender, education, income, country of birth, political ideology. We found that the association between lower knowledge and higher prejudice is statistically significant above and beyond the effect of the control variables.
      I hope this answers your question
      Best regards


      • I’m saying using the answer “concerned about a relative marrying a Muslim” is confounded by disapproval of conversion to another religion.

        I would expect disapproval of this would go up with religiousness and planned to look for this in the data.

        Is religiousness negatively correlated with knowledge of other religions? In my personal experience yes but I haven’t checked the literature.


      • Hi Dave
        Religiosity (measured asking how many times a person attends religious services per month) is a statistically significant predictor of knowledge of Islam, which means that the Christians who report to attend more religious services are the ones who tend to know a bit more about Islam as a religion.
        And people who know more about Islam also report less prejudice against Muslims. This is what we find.


      • Interesting as Pew found Jews (low % in Australia) then atheists and agnostics (~20% in Australia) knew most about other religions:

        The press release says:
        “participants – who were not asked for their religious background” but you claim: “which means that the Christians who report to attend more religious service”. Not sure if you can do that, perhaps you over-sampled Muslims for example.

        Anyway I’ll wait for the paper, just wish the press release from the university waited for data to be available.


      • Hi Dave
        Actually, declaring a religious affiliation and attending multiple times religious services (i.e. our measure of religiosity) are different things. In our survey religiosity is a statistically significant predictor of knowledge of Islam, not religious affiliation. The survey that you linked is interesting though, thanks for pointing it out.
        Could you please tell me which press release you are referring to, and where can I find it? The official press release from Deakin University (the only one I know of) does not have the sentence that you quote. Also because the AuSSA survey has questions about religious affiliation, it’s even on the website!


      • Dear Dave
        Please note that:
        1) the link that you indicate is not a press release: it is an article, and it is not entirely accurate as sometimes happens with the media. In fact the information that you quoted is not correct and it did not originate from me or from my colleagues. In fact we did ask for the religious background of the participants (and we have no reason to hide it!)
        2) the findings do not change at all after excluding the Muslims from the sample, because Muslims are such a tiny proportion (and because usually Muslims know about Islam).


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