Donald Trump's proposals to crack down on Muslims in America and those trying to enter the country are based on shaky evidence, at best, according to a recent Pew survey.
Following the Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., attacks, Mr. Trump has called for a database tracking all US Muslims, shutting down mosques, and, most recently, banning Muslims from entering the country, proposals he has suggested will keep America safer.
His proposals are based on the belief that "large segments of the Muslim population" hate America and support global jihad. It's a perspective that some Americans appear to share.
Some 58 percent of Americans believe most Muslims around the world support Islamic State (IS) or are evenly split, according to a January Brookings report. Some 22 percent of Republicans think most Muslims support IS and 40 percent of Americans are "somewhat" or "very" worried that a "significant number of Americans will join IS in the Middle East," according to that report.
But a more recent poll reaches a different conclusion about Muslim Americans. Just days after the San Bernardino shootings, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 51 percent of Americans view Muslims living in the United States the same as any other community, while just 14.6 percent are generally fearful.
In this poll, like others, how Muslim Americans are viewed is partisan. Among Democrats, 60 percent said they view Muslims like any other community, compared with 30 percent of Republicans.
Following the Paris terror attacks, Islamophobia played out in an anti-refugee backlash in which a number of Western countries and US states expressed apprehension at accepting Syrian refugees.
According to another Reuters poll, 52 percent of respondents said “nations which accept refugees fleeing the strife in Syria are less safe," and 41 percent said that “countries should stop accepting refugees because of the threat of terrorism.”
But according to a Pew study, that examined 11 countries with large Muslim populations, the majority of people "disdain" IS.
"According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS," the report concluded.
It found that in Lebanon, which was attacked by Islamic State days before the survey was conducted, 99 percent of people had a very unfavorable view of the group. Some 97 percent of Israelis and 94 percent of Jordanians were also opposed to IS.
Only 28 percent in Pakistan had an unfavorable view of IS, and a majority of Pakistanis (62 percent) had no opinion on the extremist group, but the results were clear.
"In no country surveyed did more than 15 percent of the population show favorable attitudes toward Islamic State. And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines," the study said.
In fact, nearly universal Muslim disdain for Islamic State appears to be based on a rejection of IS's perversion of Islam.
In September, a group of more than 120 Muslim scholars from around the world published an 18-page open letter to Islamic State, denouncing them as un-Islamic and rebuking their extreme ideology.
In a point-by-point summary, the scholars criticized the group's practices as un-Islamic. For example, in Islam, it is forbidden to torture, kill the innocent, attribute evil acts to God, force conversions, or destroy the tombs of prophets, according to the scholars' letter.
Muslims around the world have condemned Islamic State's extreme beliefs in formal statements and social media campaigns like #NotInMyName.
Still, Trump has persisted in his claims.
"According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population," Trump said in outlining his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US. "Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing '25 percent of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad' and 51 percent of those polled 'agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.'"
But, as The Washington Post pointed out, his evidence is based "on a very shoddy poll."
That poll was commissioned by The Center for Security Policy, an organization run by Frank Gaffney, identified as an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Post listed a number of problems with that survey's methodology, including that it was an opt-in online survey, that answers were limited to agree/disagree, that many of its target respondents speak English as a second language which can make survey difficult to navigate, and that the organization conducting survey may have influenced the findings.
"There is no question that the results of the survey — which would certainly bear retesting if accurate — were influenced by the organization that paid for it," concluded the Post.
As for the Pew Research report Trump refers to at the beginning of his statement, he never links to the specific report but "the polling firm has found that Muslims across the globe are overwhelmingly opposed to the Islamic State and in 2007 that Muslims were much less likely to view suicide bombings as justified than five years prior," reports the Post. "In 2011, they learned that US Muslims almost never consider suicide bombings to be justified."
Why is Trump citing unreliable data?
The Post offers this: "Trump has learned over the course of the past few months that railing against Mexican immigrants and Muslim migrants pays political dividends. He, like Gaffney, is happy to seize on questionable numbers to make his point."