KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30—The Pew Research Centre today defended its poll that indicated inordinate support for the Islamic State (IS) among Malaysians, after Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi questioned its methodology.
It said the poll from which the results were gleaned followed the standard best practices for polling research and was conducted by interviewing 1,000 respondents personally throughout the entire country, but excluding interior regions in Sabah and Sarawak.
“We asked respondents whether they had a favourable or unfavourable view of ISIS. Eleven per cent had a very or somewhat favourable view of ISIS while a large majority (64 per cent) had a very or somewhat unfavourable view. A quarter of those surveyed had no opinion of the group.
“Measuring public opinion on such a sensitive topic is certainly a difficult challenge. However, we believe surveys such as this can help us understand public attitudes toward an extremely important topic,” Richard Wike, Pew’s Director of Global Attitudes Research, wrote in a letter to Malay Mail Online.
The letter was in response to an article reporting the deputy prime minister as saying that the Pew Research Centre may not be backed by empirical evidence.
Ahmad Zahid, who is also home minister, said that while he acknowledged that there were pockets of support for IS among Malaysians, he doubted that this was as prevalent as suggested by the Pew Research Centre survey.
“To my observation, of course there are IS sympathisers. But to say 3.1 million Malaysians support them, we cannot swallow that as a whole. I think we need to look at the methodology of the survey,” he said last week.
Attention on the IS’s presence in the region was renewed following a series of terrorist attacks in Jakarta, Indonesia last month, which triggered a security alert in neighbouring countries including Malaysia.
In the study of Muslims’ attitude towards IS, which the Pew Research Centre gleaned from its 2015 Global Attitudes survey, support level for the group in Malaysia was 11 per cent favourable — tied for second place with Senegal among 11 nations with significant Muslim populations polled.
Expressed support for IS was higher only in Nigeria, the home to the current deadliest terrorist organisation, the Boko Haram, as rated by the Institute of Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index 2015.
In neighbouring Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world by population — 79 per cent of respondents said they were against IS, with just four per cent saying they were positive about the organisation.