Islamophobia is the top issue for U.S. Muslim voters in 2016, with health care and the economy in second and third place, according new poll results published Monday.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, surveyed 2,000 Muslim primary voters in the five states with the highest Muslim populations: New York, Illinois, California, Texas, Florida and Virginia.
The poll found 30 percent of Muslims saying Islamophobia is their top concern in 2016, with 23 percent saying the economy and 14 percent saying health care.
Robert McCaw, political director for CAIR, said anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians has emboldened people who carry out acts of physical violence or discrimination against Muslims and mosques.
In the weeks following last year’s attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, vandalism and arson hit Muslim places of worship across the United States, with CAIR recording 75 acts of physical violence or legal discrimination against Muslims since mid-November 2015, McCaw said.
Muslim voters overwhelmingly ally themselves with Democrats, the telephone survey found, with 67 percent saying they identify with the party. About 15 percent of respondents said they plan to vote Republican.
“That’s a reflection of the toxic political environment cultivated by Trump and Carson,” McCaw said, referring to real estate investor Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Both Republican presidential candidates have recently supported the idea of banning at least some Muslims from entering the U.S.
A majority of Democrats polled, 51 percent, say they are supporting Hillary Clinton, while 22 percent will vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. McCaw said the views of Muslim voters — who are broadly liberal but with some die-hard Republican supporters among them — are mirroring the political affiliations of Jewish Americans, a niche constituency that Democrats can usually rely on for support.
About 7 percent of those polled said they would vote for Trump.
McCaw said he wasn’t surprised by the support for Trump, even though the candidate has made political hay out of expressing suspicion of Muslims entering the U.S.
“He’s the default candidate right now, followed by [Texas Sen. Ted] Cruz,” McCaw said. Although Cruz has not made Muslims the focus of his campaign, he has done little to challenged Trump on his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“Cruz is just sitting more quietly in the back, hoping, waiting to fill Trump’s shoes” should Trump stumble, McCaw said.