Poorly Reported Statistics--Serious Issue

This report from Cornell University is being reported by the Associated Press as showing that "44 percent of those surveyed said they favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted."  The report is disturbing enough, we don’t have to over-hype it, because it only shows that 44 percent of those surveyed support restriction on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans if you have an unusually broad definition of the term. 

The actual results are as follows:

A) All Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government--27%

B) Mosques should be closely monitered and surveilled by U.S. law enforcement agencies--26%

C) U.S. government agencies should profile citizens as potential threats based on being Muslim or having Middle Eastern heritage--22%

D) Muslim civic and volunteer organizations should be infiltrated by undercover law enforcement agents to keep watch on their activities and fundraising--29%

48% of people agreed with none of the choices.  15% agreed with one statement.  29% agreed with two or more statements. 

I'm a bit confused about why the people who agreed with zero plus the people who agreed with one plus the people who agreed with two or more equals only 92%, but I'll put that aside. 

The reporting of these figures is inaccurate.  A) is clearly a restriction on civil rights.  B) is ambiguous as to 'closely monitored'.  I can see a number of people who support monitoring of mosques--especially those mosques that preach violence--that would not violate civil rights.  C) depends on what you are profiling and how much the religious aspect comes into play.  I know that some people hate the idea of profiling at all, and an overly broad profile can certainly lead to the violation of civil rights.  But it isn't a violation in itself.  To borrow a concept from affirmative action, is this a plus factor or the deciding factor?  Considering the fact that using Muslim civic and volunteer organizations are routinely used by terrorists to hide their activities and to funnel money from legitimate uses to illegitimate uses, D) is not a problem so long as it involves those organizations which the federal governement can legitimately suspect of engaging in such activities.  With the wording of the question it isn't obvious what people mean by supporting it. 

It is fair to report those supporting A) as clearly supporting restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslims in America.  Reporting the same for B) and C) is a close call which could have been clarified with better questioning.  Reporting the same for D) is illegitimate. 

It is bad enough that 27% of people polled support clear restrictions on civil liberties by wanting to create something akin to the registered sex offender unit for Muslims.  Isn't that scary enough?  Doesn't that suggest enough of a problem to require attention?  You don't need to hype it up past that with poorly worded questions.  To that 27%, we need to explain that the number of Islamist supporters in the Muslim population is a small enough portion of the whole community of Muslims to make thinking about a resgistry completely ridiculous.  It would be like requiring everyone who has a DVD player to report to the police because you had a fear that they might watch child porn on it.  It would be like forcing everyone with a gun to constantly report their whereabouts because someday they might shoot someone. 

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at December 21, 2004 3:43 AM