I think that comparing attitudes towards Muslims and and non-Muslim Asians would be a good comparison, since both groups have increases in immigration over a similar period. My guess is that positive attitudes towards non-Muslim Asians would have increased significantly more.
To recap, Muslims increased their positive low social distance rating (welcome as family member or close friend) between 1988 and 2007 by 14.5%, and reduced their negative high social distance rating (keep out of country or have as visitor only) by 8%.
In the world of religion, which seems to have been marked by significant increases in tolerance over the last 20 years, Bruce’s prediction is correct. For Buddhists, their positive low social distance rating is up 23.4% to 51.9%, and their negative low social distance rating is down 20.5% to 5.4%. Perhaps there is a Dalai Lama effect here; Eastern religions have long held a fascination for some Westerners.
But on ethnicity, the changes are less marked. The mainly Buddhist Vietnamese have seen their positive rating increase by 9.7% to 36.3% (less than the Muslim 38.5%), and their negative rating drop by 19% to 13.2% (better than the Muslim 24.5%).
I am surprised by the positive social distance advantage of Muslims over Vietnamese, and some initial further investigation indicates that the questions were in separate sections of the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2007, which were answered by different people. Maybe there is an issue with the sample.