Politics and Religion


Americans' Views of Muslims and Mormons: A Social Identity Theory Approach

James M. Penninga1 c1

a1 Calvin College


Although American society is religiously pluralistic, not all religious groups enjoy equal levels of public approval and support. Indeed, America has a history of viewing members of nontraditional religious groups with considerable distrust and suspicion. Two religious groups in particular — Muslims and Mormons — have come under fire in recent years, though not necessarily for the same reasons. Muslims and Mormons have frequently been viewed as outside the mainstream of American culture and, perhaps for that reason, have suffered from discrimination, threats, and violence. This article examines Americans' views of these two important and rapidly growing groups, using social identity theory as the primary vehicle of analysis. The theory proves useful in helping us explain variance in Americans' views of these two groups. While a variety of social, political and religious variables help to explain Americans' views of Muslims and Mormons, religious variables have the greatest impact.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint request to: James Penning, Department of Political Science, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Email: penn@calvin.edu