Poverty and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan
64 Pages Posted: 3 May 2011 Last revised: 26 Jan 2012
Date Written: May 2, 2011
Combating militant violence - particularly within South Asia and the Middle East - stands at the top of the international security agenda. Much of the policy literature focuses on poverty as a root cause of support for violent political groups and on economic development as a key to addressing the challenges of militancy and terrorism. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support this contention, particularly in the case of Islamist militant organizations. 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.
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