This Research Paper seeks to explore what ‘sympathy’ and ‘support’ actually mean when it comes to terrorism. The text addresses some of the problems of public opinion surveys, includes a conceptual discussion and then continues with the presentation of data from public opinion surveys. It notes that opinion polls can be helpful in gauging (verbal) support for terrorism but also finds that the questions asked in opinion polls are generally lacking precision while the answers are often influenced by political pressures. When translating (generally low) percentages of sympathy and support for al Qaeda and so-called Islamic State in various countries into actual population figures, it emerges that there is a sizeable radical milieu in both Muslim-majority countries and in Western Muslim diasporas, held together by the world wide web of the internet. While large majorities of Muslims in most countries have no love for jihadist extremists, there are more than enough breeding grounds for terrorism. The Research Paper concludes that better instruments for measuring sympathy and support for jihadist terrorism are needed to inform counter-terrorist strategies.
How to cite: Schmid, A. P. "Data to Measure Sympathy and Support for Islamist Terrorism: A Look at Muslim Opinions on Al Qaeda and IS", The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague 8, no.2 (2017).