When asked to picture someone vulnerable to terrorism recruitment, most image an individual that has lived a hard, disadvantaged life and needs an outlet for their anger. A study funded by Queen Mary University in London has found this is not always the case. According to the results, those more likely to sympathize with radical terrorism have actually lived quite comfortable, if not, privileged lives. Researchers are hoping that this new information will help to develop a better understanding of the factors which make an individual more prone to violent ratification and help to prevent terrorism recruitment.

In a survey of over 600 men and women of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim decent in the cities of London and Bradford, England, participants were questioned on their views toward violent protests and terrorism. Results showed the majority of those questioned felt neutral or condemned these acts. However, researchers found that the number of supporters increased with participants under 20 years of age, those enrolled in full-time education, relatively high-income earners, and those suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Religious practices, health and social inequalities, and political engagement surprisingly had no influences on sympathy toward terrorism.

It is believed that by measuring the population’s attitudes toward terrorism experts will be better able to prevent future acts of violent radicalism. “From a public health standpoint, if we can pinpoint population contexts that promote sympathies for terrorism, we can then work to shift them and hopefully reduce overall vulnerability to radicalization,” explained Kamaldeep Bhui, lead author and professor of cultural psychiatry and epidemiology at Queen Mary University.

Experts believe the development of sympathies toward terrorism is the first step in violent radicalization. Sadly though, this is the stage that is least understood. ”There's little empirical research on the early stages of radicalization and it's still unclear what factors make potential recruits open to persuasion to join a terrorist movement. This 'open-to-persuasion' phase is marked by growing sympathies for terrorism and violent protest, and must be investigated further," Bhui argued in a recent press release. If this stage is prevented, counter-terrorism efforts will have better chances of preventing potential terrorism recruitment.

Source: Kamaldeep B, Warfa N, Jones E. Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders? PLoS One. 2014.