Latest Surveys on Islamic State


With the referendum on Scottish independence now held, polling attention has begun to swing back to the crisis created by the rise of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Here we report the studies which have appeared since our last blog post on 21 September 2014, arranged in chronological order of fieldwork. It should be noted that no survey was taken completely after the parliamentary debate and vote, on 26 September, in favour of British involvement in air strikes against IS in Iraq. All polls were conducted online among representative samples of British adults aged 18 and over. Topline results only are given below, but breaks by standard demographics can be found by following the links to the full data tables.

8-9 September 2014 [published 26 September 2014]

Asked to choose the most important of five current news stories, 40% of the 2,099 interviewed by YouGov for Newsweek put IS and the beheading of foreign captives in first place, just ahead of the Scottish independence referendum on 35%. The Ebola outbreak in Africa came third, on 11%, with the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge and the leaking online of nude photos of celebrities trailing at 2% and 1% respectively. However, when asked to rate the same stories according to the degree of their personal interest in them, the Scottish referendum (40%) relegated IS into second position on 25%. Data tables are at:

21-22 September 2014

How should we (and the media) describe the Islamist organization which has advanced throughout parts of Iraq and Syria during the summer, and which has recently rebranded itself as ‘Islamic State’? Britons seem unclear as to how to answer this question, according to a YouGov poll among a sample of 1,671. Only 19% personally elected for IS, against 16% preferring ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the group’s earlier title), 11% Un-Islamic State (a purely made-up name, by British imams, suggesting the group’s activities are the antithesis of Islam), 27% some other designation, with 28% undecided. By contrast, 49% of Americans chose ISIS, even though the Obama administration has tended to use ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another former title). In both Britain and America just one-third thought the media should cite the term favoured by the organization concerned, i.e. IS in this instance, the plurality recommending use of the most accurate nomenclature, with 13% of Britons and 7% of Americans urging a deliberately insulting description. British data tables are at:

and American tables at:

22-23 September 2014

A plurality (46%) disapproved of Britain and the USA sending ground troops back into Iraq in order to help fight IS, with 29% approving and 25% undecided, in a YouGov poll of 2,141. However, of those who were opposed or uncertain, 39% wanted the option of deploying ground troops to be kept open. Data tables are at:

24-25 September 2014

IS was the most noticed news story of the week for 34% of the 2,128 Britons interviewed by Populus, pushing the Scottish independence referendum into second place on 25%, and no other story scoring more than 4%. The question was entirely open-ended.

24-25 September 2014

Support for RAF air strikes against IS in Iraq increased to 57%, up from 53% on 18-19 September, in this YouGov poll for The Sun of 1,972 Britons. There was also a majority (51%) for RAF air strikes against IS in Syria, although the government is not currently pursuing this option. A plurality (48%) backed strikes in both Iraq and Syria. The majority (54%) disapproved of the commitment of ground troops. Endorsement of RAF involvement in the dropping of humanitarian aid to the victims of IS rose by six points during the week, to reach 81%. Data tables are at:

24-26 September 2014

A plurality of 45% agreed with the proposition that Britain should take part in air strikes against IS in both Iraq and Syria, in this ComRes survey of 2,003 for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday. One-quarter (26%) disagreed, with 29% undecided. Data tables are at:

25-26 September 2014

Attitudes to the IS crisis remained fairly steady in the latest YouGov study, for The Sunday Times, among a sample of 1,992 adults, albeit support for RAF air strikes against IS nudged up to 58% overall and 53% in the case of IS in Syria. There was continued opposition (by 68%) to the payment of ransoms to free British hostages held by IS, but 33% felt there was more that the government could be doing to rescue them. The threat posed by IS was deemed sufficiently strong to warrant Britain co-operating with the governments of Iran (54%) and Syria (36%), whatever their faults. Data tables are at:


The latest tracker of YouGov polling on IS can be found at:

Muslim predisposition to radicalism

At least 500 British Muslims are currently believed to be waging jihad in the Middle East, not all of them fighting with IS. Some insights into what might be the drivers for predisposition to Islamist extremism among young Muslims are offered in a new article published on 24 September 2014 in the open access, online journal PLOS One (Vol. 9, No. 9): Kamaldeep Bhui, Brian Everitt, and Edgar Jones, ‘Might Depression, Psychosocial Adversity, and Limited Social Assets Explain Vulnerability to and Resistance against Violent Radicalisation?’ The authors’ question was answered through face-to-face interviews, conducted by Ipsos MORI in 2011-12, with a quota sample of 608 men and women aged 18-45 of Pakistani or Bangladeshi family origin and of Muslim heritage living in East London and Bradford.

Radicalization was measured through a 16-item module exploring sympathies for violent protest and terrorism. Such sympathies were not widely expressed but, where they were, they were found to be most prevalent among those reporting depression and the importance of religion in their everyday life. Conversely, resistance to radicalization was associated with larger numbers of social contacts, less social capital (in terms of satisfaction with residential area, trust in neighbours, and feelings of safety), unavailability for work due to housekeeping or disability, and not being born in the UK. While calling for more research, the authors conclude that their findings point towards a preventive approach to radicalization, through tackling depression, promoting wellbeing, and, possibly, enhancing social capital. The text of the article and two supplementary tables (containing results from the 16 Likert-style radicalization statements) is located at:

Other aspects of the same research were published in a previous article in PLOS One (Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2014): Kamaldeep Bhui, Nasir Warfa, and Edgar Jones, ‘Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health, and Common Mental Disorders?’ This revealed that only 2.4% of the sample showed some sympathy for violent protest and terrorist acts. They were disproportionately under 20, in full-time education, born in the UK, English-speakers at home, from high earning households, and healthy. Those with poor health, migrants, and older people were more likely to condemn radicalization, while discrimination, poverty, social and health inequalities, political engagement, and attitudes to foreign policy were not found to be relevant factors. This first article is at:


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