The Sun has splashed with the headline: “One in five Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis”, but does the claim stack up? A look at the polling data behind Monday’s headline calls into question how the newspaper has interpreted the figures.
The splash and story inside the paper are based on a telephone poll carried out by Survation last week. It is not clear how the British Muslims were sourced, and how far the sample Survation used can be deemed to be representative of the overall group.
The particular question on which the headline is based asked respondents if they agreed with a list of statements. Only 5% of respondents agreed with the statement: “I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria.” A further 14.5% said that they had “some sympathy” with them. Taken together these figures add up to 19.5%, prompting the Sun’s story.
Even by taking the figures at face value, they ignore the fact that nearly 71.5% said they had no sympathy for young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. The question posed by Survation makes no mention whatsoever of jihadis, Islamic State and the reason fighters are going to Syria. Moreover, the question does not stipulate who the “fighters in Syria” are – Isis fighters or perhaps those of other rebel groups.
The second problem is that the term “sympathy” is open to misinterpretation: while one person might take this to mean that they share the opinion of those going to fight, a second could simply mean that they understood on an emotional level that someone would choose to do so. One can have sympathy for a position but not agree with it.