Travel ban protest
Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, Jan. 29, 2017. Reuters/Brian Snyder

Despite a divisive election campaign that saw a significant spike in hate crimes against minority religious groups, Americans’ views of almost all religious groups have become more favorable in recent years, a new survey indicated. Respondents to a Pew Research Center survey, released Wednesday, were asked to rate eight religious groups as well as atheists on a “feeling thermometer.”

Jews were viewed the most popular, garnering a mean rating of 67 on a scale of 0 to 100, similar to the findings of a survey in 2014. That put the group one point ahead of Catholics and two points ahead of mainline Protestants. Evangelical Christians were the only group to see their rating remain unchanged, at 61.

Muslims saw their rating boosted from 41 to 48. However, they remained the group viewed least warmly.

Muslims have been increasingly targeted for discrimination. In 2015, hate crimes against them soared by 67 percent compared to the year prior. An election campaign which saw Muslims explicitly discussed in terms of a security threat has been cited by many for the surge.

However, there was support for Muslims when spontaneous protests took place across the country in response to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries last month.

religious thermometer
Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, Jan. 9-23, 2017. Pew Research Center

Jews have also been a target for increased incidents of hate. Jewish Community Centers across the country have been subjected to multiple waves of bomb threats this year, while there have been multiple reports of swastikas being posted in public.

Next to Muslims, the group which Americans feel least favorable about was atheists, which had an average rating of 54. Hindus' rating was 58, Buddhists' was 60.

However, there were wide variations when taking into account age groups and religious and political affiliations. For those aged between 18 and 29, there was just a 22-point spread between the warmest rated group — Buddhists with 66 — and the least warm — Mormons with 54. At the other end of the scale, those aged over 65 years had a 31-point spread between their warmest group — mainline Protestants on 75 — and the coldest — Muslims and Atheists on 44.

The difference in spreads was even more explicit when comparing the views of Democrats and Republicans. While Democrats had just a 14-point difference in mean thermometer rating between Jews at the top and Mormons at the bottom, there was a 32-point difference for the group Republicans viewed warmest — Evangelical Christians — and coldest— Muslims.