Why Surveys of Muslim Americans Differ

  • March 06, 2009

Muslim Americans are a population of great interest to scholars, journalists and policy makers in the U.S. Yet because Muslims make up a very small percentage of the total U.S. public, it is extremely difficult to interview a large enough sample to provide a reliable picture of their views, experiences and demographic characteristics. This week the Muslim West Facts Project, a partnership between Gallup and the Coexist Foundation, released a survey of American Muslims. Like the Pew Research Center's 2007 survey of Muslims in the U.S., "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream," the Gallup study is based on a nationally representative probability sample. But there are important differences in the methodological approach and findings of the two studies.

A principal difference between the studies is how much of the Muslim American population is covered by the study. The Pew Research study includes Muslim Americans who speak English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi, while the Gallup study covers only those who speak English and Spanish. This difference in approach is critical because about two-thirds of American Muslims are foreign born, and a significant minority of them may not speak English well enough to complete an interview in that language. Based on the languages used in the interviews, Pew Research's study estimates that at least 17% of Muslim Americans fall into this category.

Read the full report Why Surveys of Muslim Americans Differ on the Pew Research Center's Web site.