(Image source from: Americans not warm towards Hindus: Pew poll})
Hindu-Americans are not one of the favourable religious groups in the United States. The Hindus as a religious group in US are not regarded as warmly as people following the Jewish faith or Catholics, Evangelical Christians and Buddhists.
Pew Research Centre has revealed that Hindus ranked 50 on a scale of 100, and were rated even lower when compared to Evangelical Christians. The centre had conducted a poll on ‘How Americans Feel About Religious Groups’ between May 30 and June 30, 2014. The survey had 3,217 adult respondents. The group consisted of randomly selected American adults.
Jewish, Catholics and Evangelical Christians were rated at 63, 62, and 61, in terms of favourabality. Religious groups that were ranked below Hindus include the Mormons (48), Atheists (41) and Muslims (40).
After the Pew poll results, leaders of Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed concern that Hindus were viewed negatively by the American public. HAF stated that the American public knew very little about Hinduism, and even those who know have mixed views.
Hinduism is stereotyped due to lack of knowledge, and focus on caste and cows, said Suhag Shukla, HAF's Executive Director. The vast spiritual base of the religion is ignored. He pointed out that such stereotypes, as shown in media and textbooks, lead to Hindu school children being bullied and fosters anti-Hindu hate crimes.
Pew called the Hindu-Americans’ rating as being “neutral on average”. But HAF opined that when it comes to the “feeling thermometer,” Americans unfamiliar with Hinduism negatively rated Hindus at 47.
The Hindus have got a low rating inspite of a remarkable growth in the Hindu American population and increasing popularity of Hindu practices such as yoga and Ayurveda. HAF stated that only 22 % of Americans said that they personally knew a Hindu person or family.
The popularity of Hindus also varied based on the political affiliation of the respondents. According to the Pew poll, Democrats rated Hindus 54, while Republicans gave them a rating of 47.
However, when an American knew a Hindu-American personally their feelings were more positive towards the community. Respondents who knew a practioner of Hinduism gave the group a rating of 63, but those who did not know anyone personally rated them 47, on average.
Interestingly, compared to Christians and Jewish people, the Hindus were viewed more positively by the younger generation than the older ones. Respondents in the age group of 18-29 rated Hindus 54, while those above 65 years of age gave Hindus a rating of 46.
(AW: Pratima Tigga)