In her May 23 syndicated column, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin wrote: "If we believe the spin of Associated Press headline writers, there's little cause for concern about" a May 22 survey by the Pew Research Center on the American Muslim population. Malkin was referring to a May 22 AP article reporting on the survey. According to the AP, the poll "revealed" that the U.S. Muslim population is "largely mainstream" and "a community that in many ways blends comfortably into society." Malkin continued by asserting that "the details of the poll show that the always-downplayed tiny minority of jihadi sympathizers in America is cause for big concern." To support this claim, however, Malkin misrepresented the findings of the study. Indeed, she both exaggerated the percentage of respondents who believe that the U.S. government was responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and obscured the actual share with favorable views toward Al Qaeda.
In her column, Malkin wrote: "[O]nly 40 percent of all American Muslims believe Arab men carried about [sic] the 9/11 attacks -- joining Charlie Sheen, Rosie O'Donnell and the inside-job conspiracy-mongers." Presumably, Malkin meant to suggest that 60 percent of all American Muslims -- not the 40 percent who said they believe Arab men carried out the attacks -- are joining Sheen and O'Donnell "and the inside-job conspiracy mongers" in claiming that the U.S. government played at least some role in 9-11. But the actual poll results show that, while 40 percent of those surveyed said they believed that "groups of Arabs" carried out the attacks, "seven percent of Muslims overall say that the attacks were the result of a conspiracy involving the United States government or the Bush administration." From the survey:
Asked whether they believe groups of Arabs carried out the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, 40% of Muslim Americans say yes, while 28% say they do not believe this, and about a third (32%) say they do not know or decline to answer the question.
When those who say Arabs were not involved in the 9/11 attacks are asked who they believe was responsible, most say they do not know or declined to answer. Seven percent of Muslims overall say that the attacks were the result of a conspiracy involving the United States government or the Bush administration. Very small proportions hold others responsible, including individuals other than Muslims (1%), Israel or Jewish interests (1%), and crazy or misguided people (1%).
Further, Malkin asserted that "[a]bout 29 percent of those surveyed had either favorable views about al Qaeda or did not express an opinion." Malkin went on to claim: "Yes, they either gave al Qaeda thumbs-up or had no opinion about the terrorist group responsible for slaughtering nearly 3,000 of their fellow Americans on 9/11 and responsible for a global bloodbath from Bali to Britain, the Middle East, and beyond." By including the respondents who did not offer an opinion on this subject (27 percent), Malkin obscured the actual share of respondents who expressed a favorable view of Al Qaeda. In fact, 1 percent had a "very favorable" view of the terrorist organization and 4 percent had a "somewhat" favorable view. Sixty-eight percent expressed an unfavorable view of Al Qaeda. (It is unclear how Malkin arrived at the figure of "about 29 percent.") From the report:
Overall, 68% of Muslims Americans view al Qaeda either very unfavorably (58%) or somewhat unfavorably (10%). Of the rest, a large proportion (27%) declined to express an opinion on the terrorist group, while just 5% of Muslims in the U.S. have a very (1%) or somewhat (4%) favorable view of al Qaeda.
According to the summary of the Pew Research Center study, "Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public." Some of the study's key findings state that "Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society"; "are highly assimilated into American society"; and "reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries."