CAIR Sees 64 Percent Jump in Muslims Registered to Vote Since 2012

Patrick Goodenough | June 22, 2016 | 4:30am EDT
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations is encouraging American Muslims to register and to actively participate in the 2016 election cycle. (Photo: CAIR)

( – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) estimates that the number of American Muslims registered to vote has jumped from around 500,000 in 2012 to at least 824,000 ahead of November’s election – a 64 percent increase.

CAIR said Tuesday that could be a possible indicator of increased political involvement due to anti-Muslim rhetoric by “public figures.”

It did not name names, but presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has come under fire for some campaign statements relating to Islam – especially his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. because of terrorism concerns.

The figures are not scientific: CAIR obtained them from first, middle or last names of registered voters that match a list of more than 43,000 “traditionally Muslim names developed by CAIR.”

Using the same methodology, CAIR’s estimate in 2012 was in the vicinity of 500,000, according to the group, which describes itself as the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

CAIR says there could be more registered Muslim voters in the U.S. than the 824,000 figure cited. It noted that African American and Latino Muslims or Muslim converts did not necessarily have names that are traditionally associated with Islam.

Its estimates also excluded names that are common both to Muslims and non-Muslims, such as Sarah, Omar or Adam, it said.

“Knowing that more than 300,000 American Muslims have registered to vote since the last presidential election is a validation of the national and local Muslim community efforts to get out the vote,” CAIR’s government affairs director Robert McCaw said in a statement.

As a community under the pressure of hostile political rhetoric calling for profiling of American Muslims, Muslim immigration bans and warrantless surveillance of mosques, we must utilize all the tools of positive civic engagement to preserve religious freedom and other constitutional rights,” he said.

Hoping further to increase the number of registered Muslims by November, CAIR recently launched a get-out-the-vote program designed to ensure that Muslims actively participate – by registering, volunteering in campaigns, hosting candidate forums and mobilizing the community.

The program will prioritize Muslims under 30, and recently naturalized citizens.

CAIR questionnaires will gauge candidates’ views on issues of concern to American Muslims.

A “religious pluralism pledge” will call on candidates to affirm that they will respect the tradition of American religious pluralism and not use their positions “to disparage or marginalize minority faiths.”

McCaw noted this month that key swing states, including Florida, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, have large concentrations of Muslim voters, giving the community “the potential to tip close elections and to help determine who will be the next president.”

A CAIR poll last March of Muslim voters in six states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia – found 46 percent support for Hillary Clinton, 25 percent for her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, and 11 percent for Trump.

After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. by a couple inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

He doubled down after this month’s terrorist attack in Orlando, saying that as president he would “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats.”

The San Bernardino attackers were the U.S.-born son of Pakistani migrants and his Pakistani-born wife. The Orlando terrorist was the U.S.-born son of migrants from Afghanistan.

How many Muslims?

According to the Pew Research Center, determining the number of Muslims in America is not easy, since the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask questions about religious affiliation.

Nonetheless, using “data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching drawn from multiple sources, including the 2011 survey of Muslim Americans,” Pew estimates there were about 3.3 million Muslim adults and children in the U.S. in 2015.

That constitutes a 20 percent increase over Pew’s 2011 estimate of 2.75 million Muslims, which in turn was a 17 percent increase over its 2007 estimate, 2.35 million.

A lower estimate around that time came from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, carried out by Trinity College scholars, which found the number of American adults self-identifying as Muslims to be 1.35 million.

In contrast, in his “address to the Muslim world” in Cairo in 2009, President Obama made reference to “nearly seven million American Muslims in our country.”

The seven million figure has been attributed to a 2001 survey of leaders from a representative sample of mosques.

It concluded that two million Muslims were associated with a mosque, and based on that number, determined that “estimates of a total Muslim population of 6-7 million in America seem reasonable.”

“Association” with a mosque was defined in that survey by at least attending Eid, the important end-of-Ramadan holiday.

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