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Donald Trump’s Muslim proposal has a scary amount of support

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

A new poll on Donald Trump's proposals to keep out Muslims, and on Islam in America more broadly, has good news and scary news.

The good news from the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is that despite a wave of anti-Muslim violence and the growing presence of Islamophobia in American politics, general opinion on Muslims hasn't shifted much.

A majority of Americans, 59 percent, have a positive view of Muslims, while 29 percent have a negative view. Those responses have been fairly stable since 9/11. (Other polls have found that negative views of Muslims have been increasing.)

The scary news is that 25 percent of Americans support Trump's proposal to stop all Muslims from coming to the US — and more Republicans approve than disapprove, 42 percent to 38 percent.

25 percent is not a small number of Americans

It's true that a majority of Americans disagree with Trump's proposal to stop all Muslims from coming into the US. But his support in the Republican Party is striking, and the poll results show how firmly Islamophobia has embedded itself within the party. More Republicans have an unfavorable view of Muslims than a favorable one. Support for Trump is particularly pronounced among rural voters.

While stirring up fear of Muslims isn't limited to Fox News and other right-wing outlets, they've gone further than others have been willing to. They seem to have found a willing audience.

That aside, one in four Americans is a sizable share of the electorate. In countries with a parliamentary system, that could translate into real political influence for Trump's proposals.

The UK Independence Party, the far-right party in the United Kingdom, got 13 percent of the vote in the 2014 elections. The National Front, France's far-right party, got 30 percent in regional elections last week — enough to significantly influence national elections. Trump's views share some commonalities with those parties, although the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, recently said she found Trump too extreme.

The results suggest that Trump is tapping into a similar, unfulfilled appetite for xenophobic policy in the US, and that future politicians hungry for votes might also do the same.

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