In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS
Recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have once again brought terrorism and Islamic extremism to the forefront of international relations. According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.
One exception was Pakistan, where a majority offered no definite opinion of ISIS. The nationally representative surveys were conducted as part of the Pew Research Center’s annual global poll in April and May this year.
In no country surveyed did more than 15% of the population show favorable attitudes toward Islamic State. And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines.
In Lebanon, a victim of one of the most recent attacks, almost every person surveyed who gave an opinion had an unfavorable view of ISIS, including 99% with a very unfavorable opinion. Distaste toward ISIS was shared by Lebanese Sunni Muslims (98% unfavorable) and 100% of Shia Muslims and Lebanese Christians.
Israelis (97%) and Jordanians (94%) were also strongly opposed to ISIS as of spring 2015, including 91% of Israeli Arabs. And 84% in the Palestinian territories had a negative view of ISIS, both in the Gaza Strip (92%) and the West Bank (79%).
Six-in-ten or more had unfavorable opinions of ISIS in a diverse group of nations, including Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Malaysia and Senegal.
In Nigeria, there was somewhat more support for ISIS (14% favorable) compared with other countries, but attitudes differed sharply by religious affiliation. An overwhelming number of Nigerian Christians (71%) had an unfavorable view of ISIS, as did 61% of Nigerian Muslims. However, 20% of Nigerian Muslims had a favorable view of ISIS when the poll was conducted in the spring of this year. The group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, is affiliated with ISIS, though the two are considered separate entities.
Only 28% in Pakistan had an unfavorable view of ISIS, and a majority of Pakistanis (62%) had no opinion on the extremist group.
While we did not ask people in Western nations about their views of ISIS, half or more of people in 15 mostly Western countries said they were very concerned about ISIS as an international threat. In France, the target of multiple coordinated attacks in Paris last week, 71% said before the attacks that they were very concerned about the ISIS threat. Similar shares of the public in other nations also expressed serious concern, including 77% of Spanish, 70% of Germans, 69% of Italians and 68% of Americans. In Lebanon and Jordan, nations that are taking in refugees from the ISIS conflict in Syria and whose people have been victims of mass terrorist incidents, 84% and 62% also said they were very concerned about the group.
General concern about Islamic extremism has been growing in many Western and predominantly Muslim nations surveyed since earlier in the decade. And as a reaction to this threat, there was widespread support for U.S. military actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria from most of the countries surveyed in the spring, including majorities in Israel (84%), France (81%), the U.S. (80%), Lebanon (78%), Jordan (77%), the UK (66%) and Germany (62%).
Jacob Poushter is an associate director focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.