Interesting insight into polling Muslim voters; mainly because it casts doubt on all those headline grabbing polls about what Muslims in the UK think. Iâ€™ve always been suspect of polling, the choice of wording, the current [political] climate and the way the data is collated can all distort factual outcomes and thus determine interpretation.
Anyway, Anthony Wells has this to say:
â€œAccurate polls of British Muslims are actually rather hard to do. For phone polls there is no nice list of only Muslim phone numbers to randomly select from, and the census data from 2001 is the only available data for coming up with weighting targets for the demographic make up of the Muslim population – hence many polls of Muslims are unweighted. Added to this is that, presumably for cultural reasons, polls of British Muslims encounter a very high refusal rate from women.
ICM have tried to get round the problem of sampling Muslims by ringing back Muslims theyâ€™d identified in their normal surveys, and increasing the sample size by asking people interviewed if they have contact details of any other Muslims they think would agree to be interviewed. This isnâ€™t perfect of course, since in theory people may well be more likely to give details of people with views similar to their own.
The recent NOP poll for Channel 4 on the other hand, used normal random telephone dialling, but only in places where more than 5% of the population were Muslim (presumably even in areas with more than 5% Muslims it must have taken a huge number of unsuccessful phone calls to houses that turned out not to contain anyone Muslim in order to get a sample of 1,000 people). This is obviously a trade-off between the absurdly prohibitive cost of doing random dialling across the whole country and discarding 97% of your calls, and excluding Muslims who live in areas where less than 5% of the population is Muslim. NOP also did 7% of their interviews in languages other than English, while I believe that ICM only interviewed English speaking British Muslims.
What this all means, is that polls of Muslim voting intention arenâ€™t 100% reliable, and arenâ€™t easily compared to each other. Add to that the fact that ICMâ€™s polls of British Muslims back in 2004 were not weighted because of a lack of authoritative demographics, while their more recent poll in February 2006 used the 2001 census data for weighting purposes (as did NOP).â€ [via UK Polling Report]
Fascinating stuff and a good piece of information to undermine all those reactionaries that rely on stats about Muslims supporting the July 7th bomber etc.
The main point however is indication that â€˜Muslim votersâ€™ havenâ€™t stopped supporting Labour in droves, as is normally assumed. The poll does come with the aforementioned caveats but this all begs the question; how can anyone claim to know what Muslim people think, given
a) Problems with polling
b) The often changable political climate
c) Muslims are more than one ethnic grouping
Isnâ€™t it time reactionary discourse about one segment of the British population gave way to a reasonable one?
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Filed in: Current affairs,Muslim,Party politics