May 24, 2017

Majorities in Europe, North America worried about Islamic extremism

Even before this week’s terrorist bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, England, people across Europe and in the U.S. and Canada had pervasive concerns about the threat of extremism in their countries. Across 12 countries surveyed from February through April by Pew Research Center, majorities said they were at least somewhat concerned about extremism in the name of Islam in their countries, including 79% who said this in the UK itself. And across the 10 EU countries surveyed, a median of 79% were concerned about Islamic extremism, while only 21% were not concerned.

The issue of extremism across Europe has manifested itself in myriad ways in recent years, including significant and deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and now Manchester, all claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS), which is based in Iraq and Syria. And while individual terrorist incidents tend to increase fears about extremism, there has been great concern globally about the issue throughout the last decade.

In many of the countries polled this year, much of the public is very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam. This includes 50% in Italy and Spain, 47% in Germany, 46% in France and 43% in the UK. Meanwhile, less than 15% of the population in all these countries is not at all concerned about the threat of extremism in the name of Islam.

Fears about extremism, while pervasive across all demographic groups, are particularly acute among older people and those who consider themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum. For example, in the UK, 87% of those ages 50 and older are concerned about extremism in the name of Islam, compared with 61% among Brits ages 18 to 29. Similarly significant age gaps exist in nine of the 12 countries surveyed.

When it comes to ideology, there are significant gaps between those on the right and left in 10 of the 12 countries surveyed. In Canada, for instance, 66% of those who place themselves on the right politically say they are concerned about extremism, compared with only 30% on the left.

Correction: The data in this blog post and the accompanying graphics and topline were corrected to reflect a revised weight for Greece and Italy data (June 28, 2017) and corrected demographic data for Canada (July 7, 2017). The changes due to these adjustments are very minor and do not materially change the analysis of the blog post.

Note: See topline results of our survey and methodology.

Topics: Europe, Terrorism, Religious Extremism, North America, Muslims and Islam, Violence and Society

  1. Photo of Jacob Poushter

    is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous2 months ago

    I find it interesting (though not surprising, in light of the research I’ve seen) that the more right-leaning a person is, the more likely he/she will be — or say they are — concerned about “Islamic extremism.” I guessing the same numbers would hold for other perceived threats. What is the foundation of the apparent correlation between political conservatism and fear/anxiety?

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      or, they don’t stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the rise in crime….

  2. Anonymous2 months ago

    Dear Jacob Poushter
    Senior researcher – Pew Research Center

    I am very fond of PEW’s surveys and often use it’s data in my work with Islamophobia and anti-Muslim demonisation in EU. Thais why,I felt sad and a bit disappointed to read your headline; Majorities in Europe, North America worried about Islamic extremism.
    When has a religion of 1.8 billion people become extremist and why was it necessary for PEW to use the world Islamic Extremism instead of extremism among a tiny section of Muslim communities.
    If PEW insists n using Islamic extremism in these Trump times, please be fair and use Jewish extremism when Israelis demolish Palestinians houses to build settlements or Christian extremism when Christian USA and western countries bomb Muslim lands or KKK commits killings and crimes against fellow citizens. Targeting one religion does not become of an institution like PEW.

    Kind regards
    Bashy Quraishy
    Secretary General – EMISCO -European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion – Strasbourg

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      Dear Bashy Quraishy,

      Your comparison to the Israel, western imperialism, and the KKK is unfair. Western imperialism is an elitist cabal, not an unorganized group of people with a common ideology committing acts of violence spontaneously. As per Israel and the KKK, yes, call them out, and yes, call for consistent labeling. However, PEW research data about the belief structures of Muslim communities show alarming figures.

      Best wishes

    2. Anonymous2 months ago

      There was a demonstration after the Manchester murders – by the Muslim community to express its solidarity with the victims. According to the BBC 300 (three hundred only) of the UKs 4 million Muslim community demonstrated.
      Compare that to the tens of thousands to demonstrate against the Danish cartoons.

  3. Packard Day2 months ago

    Why on earth would anyone be worried about “Islamic extremism?” After all, we here in America just went through eight years in which our now formerly, first constitutional scholar President refused to even connect the two words in a single sentence. Me worry? Nahhh…