Counting the Black Flags: An Experimental Assessment of Islamic State Support in the Arab World (With Sharan Grewal and A.Kadir Yildirim).
What drives support for jihadist groups like the Islamic State? We shed light on this question by conducting a YouGov survey of over 13,000 Muslims in eleven Middle Eastern countries in December 2017. We embedded endorsement experiments in the survey, allowing us to measure whether agreement with a set of statements increased if they were attributed to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Results suggest that public support for ISIS is highest in Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan, correlating strongly with actual foreign fighter flows. The paper then explores individual-level correlates in support for ISIS, showing that the strongest predictors were dissatisfaction with the government and support for political Islam. These findings call into question arguments that economic marginalization and piety drive support for jihadist groups like ISIS, suggesting instead that political grievances and ideology matter most.