Selective reporting: "1 in 4 U.S. Young Muslims OK With Homicide Bombings Against Civilians"

Copyright © 2013 — Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

This is an old story from 2007, but it's being passed around the Internet again to remind us who we're supposed to be scared of.

Fox News, 23-May-2007: Poll: 1 in 4 U.S. Young Muslims OK With Homicide Bombings Against Civilians

One out of four young U.S. Muslims believe homicide bombings against civilians are OK to "defend Islam," according to a new poll. ...

The study found that among the nation's younger Muslims, 26 percent say homicide bombings can at least rarely be justified "in order to defend Islam from its enemies."...

The survey results can be read here (Pew Research, PDF file).  The survey does in fact state that, for US Muslims aged 18-29, 15% say suicide bombing of civilian targets may "often" or "sometimes" be justified, 11% say it is "rarely" justified, and 69% say it is "never" justified.

For US Muslims as a whole, the numbers are 8%, 5%, and 78%.

But the survey doesn't compare different religions.  Here's some data from a 2010 Gallup survey:

% who believe that it is "never" justified for "an individual person or a small group of persons to target and kill civilians":

Protestants & Catholics71%
No religion/Atheist/Agnostic76%

So what does this tell us?  Obviously, US Protestants and Catholics are 2.6 times as scary as US Muslims!

Really (in my opinion), both polls are worthless.  How many people were willing to answer truthfully?  I mean, especially with the NSA, FBI, etc monitoring everything (and this was certainly suspected in 2010 when the Gallup poll was conducted, even if Snowden's leaks hadn't proved it yet).  The Gallup link (down at the bottom) discusses their methodology, and I am highly dubious — certainly they selected for Muslims who had already shown willingness to answer poll questions, who might therefore be less terroristic than the "average" Muslim.

In any case, the biggest flaw with the Fox News article is that it ignores the lack of poll data on non-Muslims.  It just leaves us to assume, without evidence, that non-Muslims couldn't possibly be as violent as that.  In addition, it selects the scariest-looking demographic (young Muslim men), and adds up the numbers for often + sometimes + rarely justified, to generate the biggest possible scary number.