updated 10/24/2006 3:49:46 PM ET 2006-10-24T19:49:46

More American Muslims are now supporting the Democratic Party but their votes should not be taken for granted, an Islamic civil rights group said Tuesday.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, released a poll of 1,000 registered Muslim voters in the United States it said showed the community has changed a great deal since supporting Republicans in 2000.

The poll found 42 percent of respondents were Democrats and 17 percent Republican, while some 28 percent had no party affiliation, said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

"It shows that Muslim community votes should not be taken for granted," said Awad, adding: "There's a shift in their political orientation."

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Estimates of the number of Muslim Americans vary between 3 million and 7 million. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed said they vote regularly.

In 2000, American Muslims endorsed and voted for Republican candidate Bush, but they switched to support the Democrats in 2004 to protest what was seen as anti-Muslim policies by the Bush administration.

Key issues
CAIR research director Mohamed Nimer said the survey showed American Muslims were most concerned about civil liberties -- an issue that has dominated the community since the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by Muslim extremists -- and education.

Foreign policy issues followed closely behind, it showed.

"There is a tremendous opposition to the Bush administration policies," Nimer said, citing the 55 percent of respondents who felt the war on terror has become a war on Islam.

Eighty-eight percent believed the Iraq war was not worthwhile for the United States and 90 percent were against using military means to spread democracy around the world.

Politics of 9/11
The survey also showed about 43 percent of those questioned felt they had been discriminated against or been the subject of racial profiling.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, news of domestic wiretapping, monitoring of mosques, immigration crackdowns, public support for racial profiling and bans on some Muslim scholars visiting the United States made many Muslim Americans feel like targets of racism.

CAIR officials said Muslim political groups had not yet decided to endorse a party for the upcoming Nov. 7 elections.

But they have launched an aggressive effort in Muslim communities across the country to register voters, and then plan on getting people to actually vote.

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