Unworthy Victims and Threatening Adversaries: Islam, Muslims, and United States Foreign Policy

Co-author: Evan W. Sandlin

Status: Published in 2022 in Social Science Quarterly

PDF of manuscript

Abstract: Objective: We examine the role of how a hostile discourse toward Islam influences American public opinion regarding U.S. foreign policy actions toward Muslim populations and Muslim-majority nations.

Methods: Using a survey experiment with two vignettes, we test how Americans’ foreign policy preferences are affected by Islamic identity. In the first vignette, a minority group is facing ethnic cleansing. Second, a country is developing chemical weapons.

Results: We find that Americans are less likely to see Muslim minorities abroad as under threat or to support costly foreign policy actions to assist them. We also find that Americans are more likely to see Muslim countries as threatening and to support the use of military force against Muslim states.

Conclusion: Our evidence suggests that the political effects of Islamophobia are not restricted to domestic policy but include foreign policy preferences too.

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