Testing Theories of Radicalization in Polls of U.S. Muslims


  • The author thanks Dennis Gilbert for generously sharing the data of the Hamilton College Muslim American Poll, and thanks Gary LaFree and Susan Brandon for suggestions toward improving the research. This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), grant number N00140510629. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect views of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Clark McCauley, Psychology Department, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 [e-mail: cmccaule@brynmawr.edu].


Four national polls of Muslim Americans conducted between 2001 and 2007 were reviewed to find items tapping possible sources of sympathy and justification for jihadist violence: anti-Muslim discrimination, radical Islam, and economic and political grievance. These items were correlated with items representing three elements of the global-jihad frame: seeing the war on terrorism as a war on Islam or “insincere,” justifying suicide attacks in defense of Islam, and favorable views of Al Qaeda. The three elements of the global-jihad frame were no more than weakly related to one another and had different predictors. Discussion suggests that the U.S. “war of ideas” may need to target separately the different elements of the global-jihad frame.