Trump's Muslim Immigration Proposal Justified with Shoddy, Extremist Policy Analysis

By Rob Moore

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

With these words, the Trump campaign changed. The campaign that was already noted to be taking a darker turn took a further turn towards something America hadn’t seen for decades, as Tom Brokaw eloquently stated on NBC Nightly News last night. A national political leader stood in front of television cameras and articulated an unapologetically discriminatory national policy to the cheers of a large crowd.

After stating his policy position, Trump cited a poll by Center for Security Policy, saying that “25% of [Muslims] polled agreed that violence against Americans…is justified as part of the global jihad.”

The poll that trump cites has been called “shoddy” by the Washington Post. It was a self-selection poll that people chose to take on their own, eschewing any sort of random sampling technique. The poll also used an “agree/disagree format,” with more controversial statements lining up as “agree” statements, which leads to an “acquiescence response bias” in favor of more extreme answers.

What would cause a think tank to design a poll so poorly that it could reflect poorly on their organization? The simple answer is ideological bias. The Center for Security Policy, despite its benign name, is an extremist think tank that has published reports and books with titles such asStar Spangled Sharia, “Civilization Jihad,” and The Muslim Colonisation of America. The group has also been criticized for its extremism by the Anti-Defamation League, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Senator John McCain, and House Speaker John Boehner.

When Aaron Wildavsky, UC Berkeley political scientist and founder of the Goldman School of Public Policy, published the 1987 version of his policy analysis book Speaking Truth to Power: The Art and Craft of Policy Analysis, he wrote in the preface that “there is a growing polarization of political elites, a polarization that must affect the ways in which analysis is done and analysts work.” Today, his prediction has come true, and with greater fidelity to ideology comes less care for reasoned analysis. Let us hope that reason wins out, and that it happens soon.

Rob Moore is a Master of Public Policy student at the Goldman School of Public Policy. He writes on state policy and the politics of public policy.