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Polling British Muslims with an agenda

I believe this poll was designed to maximise the scope for finding differences between Muslims and Britons generally, so am not surprised that it found them.


Posted 14 April 2024

Modern opinion polls were founded by George Gallup in the USA. They are an important tool for researching what large groups of people think, by sampling a well-chosen subset.

Conceptually, there are two distinct ways of conducting research:

  1. To seek information without having a preconceived view about what you expect to find.
  2. To seek confirmation of what you already believe.

In reality, since none of us can avoid having views, real-world research tends to be a bit of both. However, sometimes it is relatively clear whether the research is seeking to be objective or seeking to promote a preexisting agenda.

A historic example

About 17 years ago, when I was relatively new in active public affairs, I spent a long time thinking about a report published by the think tank Policy Exchange called “Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism”.

The report was very critical about British Muslims, citing data from a poll commissioned by Policy Exchange, as described on page 19.

“The second part of the report outlines findings from original research conducted between July 2006 – January 2007. The polling company, Populus, conducted a quantitative survey of 1,003 Muslims in the UK, through telephone and internet questionnaires.

Telephone interviews were generally conducted in English but in a minority of cases the interview was conducted in a different language if requested by the respondent. The answers were weighted to represent the demographic of the Muslim population in the UK.

Some further questions were asked to 1,025 people from the general population in an omnibus survey for points of comparison.”

I read the report several times around 2007, and have always considered that the questions that Populus (a highly respectable polling company) was requested to ask were intended to help the writers to support a critical view about British Muslims that they already held.

I recommend reading the report to reach your own conclusion.

A recent example

Last Monday, 8 April, a producer at GB News contacted me about a story in the Daily Telegraph “Just one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel: Findings show ‘failure of counter-extremism policy’ and confirm a lot of ‘work needs to be done’ to challenge old anti-Semitic tropes.”

As The Telegraph has a paywall and I cancelled my subscription some time ago, he sent me a copy of the article which I am not reproducing here for copyright reasons. I agreed to appear on GB News’s “Farage” show that evening to discuss the subject, and then began preparing.

The poll was commissioned by The Henry Jackson Society and they have a short article “Only one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7th” which lists some of the poll’s findings. In my view every point listed on that page has been selected to paint a negative picture of British Muslims.

You can download a 50 page slide deck written by JL Partners which sets out the poll findings.

In accordance with polling industry standards, the JL Partners website publishes an Excel spreadsheet with the full poll data. Download full Excel spreadsheet.

Criticism from Sunder Katwala

I have known Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, since 2012. This think tank “has developed an in-depth understanding of public attitudes on issues, like immigration, integration and national identity, which can seem difficult and divisive.”

He looked quite closely at the way that the poll was conducted, and had a number of criticisms in this Twitter thread.

I have embedded below two of his tweets from that thread, but strongly recommend reading the full thread on Twitter as linked above.

Unfortunately, HJS (for their own reasons) do exactly what a pro-Hamas propagandist (or an anti-Muslim one) would hope they would do.

Not a serious/legitimate way to ask "support for Hamas" except as a propaganda exercise to exaggerate Hamas support among British Muslims.

— Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) April 7, 2024

It is worth looking at full script. It feels like the kind of script you might come up with if HJS wanted to test every way to amplify differences between British Muslims & UK society but avoid testing for common ground

But several interesting failures in that fishing expedition

— Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) April 7, 2024

Sunder also criticised the poll in an article for Eastern Eye “Middle east conflict puts faith and society in the spotlight.”

I was particularly struck by the text copied below.

“The non-Muslim general public were asked about perceptions of anti-Muslim prejudice since October 7, but an editorial choice was made not to ask Muslim respondents anything about that. Instead, priority was given to asking them about outlawing homosexuality, making halal compulsory and even making Islam our state religion.

If the full poll script reads like a long fishing trip to exaggerate differences between Muslims and their fellow citizens, sometimes bordering on trolling, it frequently failed to land what it was casting its net for. Removing the Established Church appeals to 18 per cent of the public and just 14 per cent of the Muslim respondents, for example.”

Freelance journalist Jenni Frazer reported on Sunder’s concerns in her Jewish News article “Questions over poll suggesting 46 percent of British Muslims support Hamas: British Future think tank leader brands poll on Hamas as "a fishing expedition"”.

Criticism from Professor Rob Ford

Robert Ford is a professor of political science at the University of Manchester. He had a detailed exchange on Twitter with James Johnson, Co-Founder of JL Partners, about the poll, which you can read here. (Scroll upwards after the link opens.)

Again, I have embedded below one of Rob Ford's tweets from the thread.

3. The potential for priming, as raised by @BDStanley - look at this question ordering - four successive questions about Israel, three of which prime strongly negative views about Israel, asked directly before the item about Hamas atrocities

— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) April 8, 2024

Video of appearance on GB News

I appeared alongside Dr Alan Mendoza, Director of the Henry Jackson Society, on the evening of Monday 8 April 2024on the GB News “Farage” show presented by Nigel Farage.

You can watch it below. The video should play from the correct start time, which is 20:12. If it doesn't, just use the video's time slider.

Concluding comments

Despite the comments on the programme by Nigel Farage and Alan Mendoza, Britain is a great success story when it comes to integration, and has done far better at it than any continental European country.

See for example my article “Why is France doing so badly at integrating Muslims?

With every year that goes by, there are more Muslims in senior positions in all walks of life. A simple example is the increase in Muslim MP’s from one in 1997 to 19 after the 2019 general election.

However, as I said on the Farage show, some of the findings of the poll are discouraging.

For example, the table below which I have assembled from the Excel spreadsheets for Britons generally and British Muslims:


General Public

UK Muslims

Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7th



Hamas did not commit murder and rape in Israel on October 7th



Don’t know



The UK Muslims' figures do add up to 101% in the source spreadsheet. Such rounding artefacts often happen as the raw responses are processed.

My view is that the 24% figure arises from a form of denialism. In other words, many of those British Muslims who sympathised with the plight of the Palestinians (both before and 7 October) simply do not want to believe that Hamas (seen by many as resistance fighters) would do such things.

Despite my criticisms of the poll generally, I do recommend downloading the full poll results using the links earlier on this page and having a look through them.


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