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Relative Poverty, Perceived Violence, and Support for Militant Politics: Evidence from Pakistan*

  • C. Christine Fair, Rebecca Littman, Neil Malhotra and Jacob N. Shapiro

Abstract

Challenging conventional wisdom, previous research in South Asia and the Middle East has shown that poverty and exposure to violence are negatively correlated with support for militant organizations. Existing studies, however, provide evidence consistent with two potential mechanisms underlying these relationships: (1) the direct effects of poverty and violence on attitudes toward militant groups and (2) the psychological effects of perceptions of poverty and violence on attitudes. Isolating whether the psychological mechanism is an important one is critical for building theories of mass responses to political violence. We conducted a series of original, large-scale survey experiments in Pakistan (n=16,279) in which we randomly manipulated perceptions of both poverty and violence before measuring support for militant organizations. We find evidence that psychological perceptions do in part explain why the poor seem to be less supportive of militant political groups.

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Footnotes

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C. Christine Fair is an Associate Professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University, Edward A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, 3600 N. Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007 (ccf33@georgetown.edu). Rebecca Littman is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Perestman Scully Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 (rlittman@princeton.edu). Neil Malhotra is a Professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, 655 Knight Way, Stanford, CA 94305 (neilm@stanford.edu). Jacob N. Shapiro is an Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs and Co-Director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Robertson Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 (jns@princeton.edu). The authors thank Eli Berman, Graeme Blair, Mike Callen, Patrick Kuhn, Paul Staniland, and seminar participants at the 2013 APSA Conference, University of Chicago and Yale for their helpful comments and feedback. All errors are the authors’ own. This research was supported in part by the US Department of Defense’s Minerva Research Initiative through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, grant no. FA9550-09-1-0314. This research was also supported by the US Department of State, through the Office of Public Affairs, grant no. SPK33011 GR004. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2016.6

Footnotes

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