Misleading Statistic #147

BBC News reports that "MI5 believes, from polls, that around 400,000 people in the UK are "sympathetic to violent jihad around the world".

Doesn't it sound terrifying? Four hundred thousand people, all of whom readers of a certain newspaper will think are ready to wage bloody war against Merrie England and probably do unspeakable things to old maids cycling through the mist to Communion.

Aside from the problems of polling, push-polling, questions and so on (no methodology published) and the fact that UK intelligence gathering doesn't exactly have an A1 rating, 400,000 should be put in context. There are on the order of 60,000,000 people in the UK. 400,000 is two-thirds of one percent of the population. In other words, despite an illegal war in Iraq, Guantanamo, white phosphorus, Abu Ghraib, Stockwell, Forest Gate, restriction of civil liberties and a cost to the UK of £4.55 billion, 99.3% of people in Britain - say 59,600,000 people - do not support this form of violence.



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