A US survey has found that people believe gays are the most discriminated-against social group, with Muslims and Hispanics following.

The figures, released yesterday by the Pew Research Centre, found that 64 per cent of those surveyed said gays and lesbians face “a lot of discrimination”.

Fifty-eight per cent agreed that Muslims face the same level of discrimination and 52 per cent said the same for Hispanics.

The research looked at perceptions of Muslims in the greatest detail. Forty-five per cent of those questioned said Islam was no more violent than any other faith, compared to 38 per cent who said it was.

This figure was almost completely reversed in 2007, when 45 per cent said it was more violent and 39 per cent said it was not.

Almost half (45 per cent) of those polled said they knew a Muslim, although only 41 per cent knew the name used to refer to God (Allah) and the religion’s sacred text (the Koran).

It was found that the more familiar people were with Islam, the less likely they were to associate the religion with violence.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with 4013 people during August. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.