CAIR's Unscientific Polling
by Daniel Pipes
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has a tradition of conducting straw polls (questions "were faxed and e-mailed to Muslim individuals and organizations nationwide" it helpfully informs) and then pawning these off as scientific surveys, which then get picked up by guillible reporters. Straw poll results released today of 644 individuals, however specious, do have an interesting implication. In "Poll: U.S. Muslims Increase Political Activity Since 9/11," CAIR announces that American Muslims would vote for, among Democratic candidates for president, Howard Dean (26 percent), Dennis Kucinich (11 percent), John Kerry (7 percent), and Carol Moseley Braun (6 percent). "Only 2 percent said they would vote for President Bush."
Comment: This result would seem to box CAIR and its fellow-traveler organizations into supporting a Democrat for president, denying them the flexibility in the 2000 campaign to hold out their vote for the candidate who offered them the most. That said, don't expect consistency from this group.
For that matter, one could find precisely the opposite reading in today's Detroit News, which quoted Ismael Ahmed, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, saying that "the Arab-American vote is up for grabs and strategically important." It will be interesting to watch how Muslim and Arab groups shift from one position (Bush has disappointed us) to the other (our vote is up for grabs) over the next year. (September 10, 2003)
Jan. 25, 2004 update: CAIR is running, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, a poll on the homepage of its website asking for the preference of visitors about the remaining Democractic candidates. The poll looks like this:
Who is your choice from the democratic national candidates?
General Wesley Clark
The results as of mid-day today look like this:
Who is your choice from the democratic national candidates?
Comment: This is obviously a thoroughly unreliable straw poll, but still, the fact that Joseph Lieberman, the most conservative, pro-Iraq war, pro-war on terror candidate in the Democratic field, should be winning toward 2/3s of the votes at CAIR's website is noteworthy.
June 29, 2004 update: A third in the sequence of unscientific polls has been released today by CAIR, this one a survey of 1,161 eligible Muslim voters during June. It turned up 54 percent support for Kerry, 26 percent for Nader, and 14 percent undecided. Although President Bush's tally is not given, it logically cannot be higher than 6 percent. Looked at positively, that's about three times what he scored in the September straw poll noted above.
Comments: (1) Not for the first time, the media – the San Francisco Chronicle, Jerusalem Post, United Press International, Cybercast News Service – has uncritically picked up a CAIR press release and verbatim reproduced it, not bothering to inquire into the biases, survey methodology, or anything else. In effect, CAIR can churn out whatever results it wishes and these become holy writ.
(2) It looks as though CAIR has thrown in its lot with the Democratic Party, abandoning its earlier pretense of being a power broker between the parties. This both confirms what I have been predicting about the parties sorting themselves out along Muslim-Jewish lines and echoes the Islamist response to the Liberal victory at the polls just yesterday in Canada ("Muslim Vote Helps Save Canada from Conservative Government" reads the press release today of the Canadian Islamic Congress).
Aug. 19, 2004 update: Muqtedar Khan sees CAIR's survey numbers, which he implies are cooked, as an "alternate means of endorsement." He writes that CAIR's recent poll on the political attitudes of its membership amounts to
This analysis makes sense to me.
Oct. 20, 2004 update: Even a serious and reliable polling service like Zogby International finds major discrepancies in the Muslim vote. Note this throw-away comment in a Washington Times article today that mentions two polls of Muslim voting patterns in the 2000 presidential race, one in 2001 and the other one just completed:
Comment: This inconsistency suggests a tendency to tell the pollster what he wants to hear or what fits one's mood of the moment.
Nov. 2, 2004 update: CAIR topped off its season of unscientific polling with a straw poll on Election Day that it passed off as a scientific survey. As someone signed up for the CAIR "big list," I received an e-mail today at 1:17 p.m., EST that began: "As-salaamu alaykum: Please take a minute to fill out the following CAIR Muslim voter exit poll. Forward this poll to your personal e-mail list so that we may have as diverse a sample as possible." The survey asks four questions (Are you Muslim? Who did you vote for? In which state did you vote? Did you experience any problems in casting your vote?).
Then, at 7:28 p.m., EST, I received a press release from CAIR, "Exit Poll: 93 Percent of Muslims Voting for Kerry." This reports on what is called an "exit poll" of 537 Muslim voters. It also found 5 percent favoring Ralph Nader and less than 1 percent supporting George W. Bush. As for methodology, the release states, "Surveys were faxed and e-mailed to Muslim individuals and organizations nationwide this afternoon." Garbage in, garbage out.
Nov. 19, 2004 update: I take back what I said about John Zogby (at the Oct. 20, 2004 update, above) being "serious and reliable." Here is Morris Amitay, who knows a thing or two about polling, writing on the subject of him:
Serious charges, those, but in light of Zogby's egregious election day performance, one that is hard to argue with.
Mar. 9, 2006 update: CAIR is at it again. In a document titled "American Public Opinion about Islam and Muslims," lacking dates, size of sample, questions, and so on, it shows on p. 30 a graph of attitudes towards itself in 2004 and 2005. According to this poll, CAIR is perhaps the most beloved institution in the United States, with 42 percent favorable and just 3 percent unfavorable.
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