Pakistanis Don’t Like Violent Radical Groups, But Support For Them Is Higher In The Middle Class

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It seems natural to most people to suppose that support for violent radical organizations in countries like Pakistan must be linked to poor economic conditions, but evidence to back this up is hard to come by. Indeed, research from Graeme Blair, Chrstine Fair, Neil Malhotr, and Jacob N. Shapiro published as “Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan” (PDF) finds that it’s actually the reverse:

To address this gap we conducted a 6000-person, nationally representative survey of Pakistanis that measures affect towards four important militant organizations. We apply a novel measurement strategy to mitigate item nonresponse, which plagued previous surveys due to the sensitive nature of militancy. Our study reveals three key patterns. First, Pakistanis exhibit negative affect toward all four militant organizations, with those from areas where groups have conducted the most attacks disliking them the most. Second, contrary to conventional expectations poor Pakistanis dislike militant groups more than middle-class citizens. Third, this dislike is strongest among poor urban residents, suggesting that the negative relationship stems from exposure to the externalities of terrorist attacks. Longstanding arguments tying support for violent political organizations to individuals’ economic prospects—and the subsequent policy recommendations—may require substantial revision.

I’m not sure how directly parallel this is, but if you think about the United States circa 1970, everyone knows that radical politics was a minority taste disproportionately concentrated in the middle class.