According to a new poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, most Americans think that Barack Obama’’s pledge seeking “a new way forward” with the Muslim world is an important goal, even though many Americans still possess negative views about Islam; virtually half, 48%, said they have an unfavorable view of the religion.

The poll also revealed that a majority of Americans lack a familiarity with the Islam, with 55% saying they lacked a basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Islam. Additionally, most respondents noted that they did not know anyone who is Muslim.

Among polling divisions, the findings suggest that Republicans are more likely to hold negative views about Islam and Muslims, when compared to Democrats, and more Catholic respondents hold the view that Islam is a peaceful faith: 60%, when compared to 55% among Protestants, and 48% among white evangelical Protestants. Yet, the majority of all polled agreed that it is important for the new president to try to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

This Washington Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone in late March 2009, among a national random sample of 1,000 adults.

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