U.S. media routinely overestimate the Muslim-American population, says Tom W.
Smith, PhD'80, director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion
Research Center. The oft-cited figure-on average 6.7 million-has no scientific
basis, Smith argues, but spreads through repetition (see "Letters").
The actual number, which Smith found in national surveys such as NORC's GSS and
the American National Election Study and then cross-checked with U.S. Census and
Immigration and Naturalization Service country-of-origin and ancestry figures,
is 1.9 million to 2.8 million.
his formal study in August 2001. After September 11, when the figure became politicized,
the American Jewish Committee provided support. He notes the AJC's vested interest
but adds: "This is a topic of scientific interest to me. The AJC's interest
happened to correspond." His full report is in the fall Public Opinion