Princeton University Library Catalog

Friend or Foe? Americans’ Stereotypes of Muslims

Saud, Lina [Browse]
Senior thesis
Fiske, Susan [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
111 pages
Summary note:
Background: Americans’ perceptions of Muslims in terms of warmth and competence remains ambiguous. The literature on stereotypes indicates that Muslims are viewed as neutral in competence and slightly less than neutral in warmth (Fiske et al, 2002). Given the strength of opinions and negative sentiments toward Muslims following 9/11, these findings leave much to be explored. Research on subtypes has found high variability in views on warmth and competence toward different subtypes of social groups. The motivating question for this research is whether such variability is evident when looking at subtypes of Muslims. Method: MTurk workers serve as the test group representing the general American population and Princeton University undergraduates serve as the reference group, given the younger demographic and greater exposure Princeton students have to Muslims than the average American. Participants (n=57) on MTurk and participants (n=52) from the Princeton University undergraduate population completed a preliminary survey to collect data on the spontaneous subtypes that Muslims are placed into by Americans. A main survey asked participants to rate each indicated subtype on stereotype, structural, emotion, and behavior variables. Participants (n=200) on MTurk and participants (n=132) from the Princeton undergraduate population completed the main survey. Results: Mturk workers demonstrated an overall evaluation of Muslim subtypes, rating subtypes on a vector of bad (low warmth-low competence) to good (high-warmth-high competence). This mirrors findings on stereotypes in conflict regions, suggesting that Americans may generally view themselves as in conflict with Muslims. This vector pattern was not observed in the Princeton sample, likely due to the greater contact Princeton students generally have with Muslims on campus and the multicultural ethos characteristic of university campuses. This thesis recommends contact interventions and highlighting Muslim exemplars in American media to counter erroneous generalizations evident in Americans’ stereotypes of Muslims.