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Media Coverage of the Gallup Poll of "The Islamic World"

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March 6, 2002

Gallup did an important and fascinating study of reaction to the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. The study drew such wide attention President Bush, according to USA Today, said we "must do more to improve [our] image in the Islamic world." A State Department spokesman also commented on the study. Given this study's prominent attention the National Council on Public Polls feels some comments are in order.

  1. News stories based on the Gallup poll reported results in the aggregate without regard to the population of the countries they represent. Kuwait, with less than 2 million Muslims, was treated the same as Indonesia, which has over 200 million Muslims. The "aggregate" quoted in the media was actually the average for the countries surveyed regardless of the size of their populations.
  2. The nine countries in the Gallup study do not represent the Muslim world. Gallup never claimed it had a representative sample of Muslim countries. However its findings, as reported by USA Today, claims to be a study of the Muslim world. CNN also reported a single number that represented Muslims. The aggregate figures do not even represent the results across the nine countries. The nine countries in the Gallup study comprise only about 40% of the world's Muslim population. Four of the excluded countries had larger populations of Muslims than many of those that were included. Excluded were India, Bangladesh, Egypt and Nigeria. On the other hand almost two thirds of the Muslims in the nine countries Gallup studied live in Indonesia and Pakistan. (Note: both CNN and USA Today did report results for the nine countries in addition to the aggregate data.)
  3. The surveys were samples of all residents of the countries surveyed, not only Muslims.
  4. We must rely on the news organizations that have reported the study, and our comments relate to the ways in which the research results have been reported in the media. Nothing in this statement is intended to be critical of this important research.

For more information about this and other polling issues, contact the NCPP Polling Review Board Members.

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