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US Poll: Belief Persists Some Muslims Celebrated 9/11 Attacks

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks at a rally aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Dec. 7, 2015. He defended his plan to stop Muslims from entering the country, Dec. 8, 2015.

There is no video evidence of large groups of U.S. Muslims celebrating al-Qaida's destruction of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but a new survey shows that 20 percent of Americans cling to the belief that such celebrations occurred.

Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey said Tuesday that its survey of more than 1,000 people showed that an additional 38 percent of Americans aren't sure whether or not the celebrations occurred in New Jersey, just kilometers from where al-Qaida terrorists flew passenger jets into the skyscrapers, killing more than 2,600 people.

Whether the celebrations occurred is playing a role in the 2016 U.S. presidential race as the Republican frontrunner, New York billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump, has often claimed thousands of U.S. Muslims cheered the attacks, part of his broader anti-Muslim rhetoric and call for keeping Muslims from foreign countries from entering the United States as a way to prevent a new terrorist attack.

One retired policeman in New Jersey said this week he saw 20 or 30 people celebrating on an apartment building rooftop with an unobstructed view of New York's lower Manhattan area where the towers stood. But no video evidence has emerged of any large-scale celebrations, as Trump has claimed.

Fairleigh Dickinson pollsters found a distinct split among Americans, broken down by political affiliation and beliefs and education, whether they believe Trump's claim about U.S. Muslims celebrating the fall of the towers on September 11, 2001.

The poll said 68 percent of U.S. conservatives, 36 percent of Trump supporters and 24 percent of less educated people, those with a high school education or less, believe that large groups of U.S. Muslims celebrated the attacks.

The researchers said that 25 percent of liberals, 13 percent of those supporting the leading Democratic presidential contender, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and 16 percent of those with a college degree or more education, believe the celebrations occurred.

Other surveys of Americans show that concern about Islamic State terrorism is on the increase in the U.S. in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people and the attack on a local government center in California earlier this month carried out by an American-born Muslim and his Pakistani wife that left 14 dead.