In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Statistics and Lampposts XXI: Seeking a Headline

seeking-a-headline-bbc-pa

How badly did The Sun interpret its paid polling? (Edited:BBC/PA)

Another reason for data misinterpretation is to generate headlines. The Sun newspaper managed to stoke controversy [1] by claiming on the front of their Monday 23rd November edition that a “shock poll” found:

1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.

The photo caption read:

Support… Brit Jihadi John who went to Syria.

The front page highlighted a Kelvin McKenzie article, suggesting:

Time for Britain to shut door.

The Times, which is also owned by The Sun’s parent company News International, also had a headline [2]: “One in five British Muslims has sympathy for Isis”.

seeking-a-headline-sun-guardian.png

Closest to their view

Polling was conducted by Survation [3], of 1,003 adult Muslims in Great Britain, who were asked questions related to their faith, and to terrorism. Respondents were asked which was closest to their view:

I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria;
I have some sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria;
I have no sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria.

Whilst other questions in the poll did refer to ISIS, or the Islamic State, this question did not, nor did it refer to “jihadis”. In addition, sympathy is a distinct stance from support.

In the November poll, 5% of British Muslims said they have “a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, with a further 15% responding they have “some sympathy”. 71% said they have “no sympathy”.

Survation polled British Muslims [4] and non-Muslims [5] in March 2015, on behalf of Sky News, which is also owned by News International. In the March poll, 61% of respondents described having “no sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”. Furthermore, 8% of those surveyed said they had “a lot” of sympathy, and 20% saying they had “some sympathy”.

The Survation poll of non-Muslims in March 2015 is useful for a comparison. 4% of non-Muslims shared the view of “a lot of sympathy”, and 9% said they had “some sympathy” with those young Muslims joining fighters in Syria. This suggests that, on this particular issue, there is a similarity in belief between Muslims and non-Muslims: an overwhelming majority show no sympathy towards those Muslims seeking to compete in Syria’s battle royal.

Survation-Muslims-poll-tableau

On this issue, British Muslim opinion is not wildly different to non-Muslims. (Visualisation: Tableau)

“Shock poll”

It was unfortunate that The Sun did not fund the equivalent poll of non-Muslims, to allow a full and proper comparison with Survation’s March survey. Indeed, November’s poll by Survation demonstrates a fall in any sympathies towards young Muslims wanting to leave the United Kingdom in order to join Syrian combatants.

It was not a “shock poll”: it was a misinterpretation seeking a headline.

References

[1] BBC, 2015. Record complaints for Sun UK Muslim ‘jihadi sympathy’ story. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34913581 [Accessed: 28th November 2015]

[2] The Times, 2015. Corrections and clarifications: Nov 26, 2015. Available from: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/corrections/article4623677.ece [Accessed: 28th November 2015]

[3] Survation, 2015. Islamic Identity & Community Relations Survey, 20/11/2015. Available from: http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Islamic-Identity-Community-Relations-Survey.pdf [Accessed: 28th November 2015]

[4] Survation, 2015. British Muslims Poll, 20/03/2015. Available from: http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Full-Sky-Muslim-Tables.pdf [Accessed: 28th November 2015]

[5] Survation, 2015. British Non-Muslims Poll, 20/03/2015. Available from: http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Full-Sky-non-Muslim-tables.pdf [Accessed: 28th November 2015]

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2015 by in Statistics and tagged , , , .
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