Pew Poll Surprise: Many Americans Have Negative Impressions of Hindu Americans
Washington D.C. (July 23, 2014) - Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed concern that much of the American public holds negative views of Hindus, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Institute. The poll, which asked participants to rate religious groups on a "feeling thermometer" from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating warmer feelings, found that Americans as a whole know little about Hinduism, and those who do hold mixed views. According to the survey, despite exponential growth in the Hindu American population and the growing popularity of the Hindu practices such as yoga and ayurveda, less than one in four Americans can identify knowing a practitioner of Hinduism. Additionally, those unfamiliar with the religion negatively rated Hindus at 47 on the "feeling thermometer." Hindus overall received a score of 50.
"The survey underscores what Hindu Americans already know: most Americans remain unfamiliar with Hinduism and its practices," said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF's Executive Director. "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."
HAF leaders also expressed concern at the negative impressions towards Muslims, Mormons, and Atheists revealed in the survey. Muslims, who received a rating of 40, Atheists, a rating of 41, and Mormons, a rating of 48, were the only faiths to receive lower ratings than Hindus.
"Muslims, Mormons, and Atheists, like Hindus, deserve to live in a community that respects their private spiritual beliefs," noted Padma Kuppa, a member of HAF's Board of Directors. "HAF has worked with the Muslim community to combat hate crimes and with interfaith and secular leaders to fight for the separation of church and state. We look forward to continuing those efforts."
HAF's staff indicated that the survey results clearly demonstrate the continued need for its proactive outreach to various fora that shape the American public's perspective on Hinduism. The Foundation has been active in working with policymakers, educators, journalists, and interfaith leaders to ensure an accurate understanding of Hinduism and Hindu Americans.