Political Violence Across Ideological Categories

11:00am - 12:00pm

Online (Zoom)

On Thursday, November 3 at 11:00 a.m. ET, START Founding Director and University of Maryland Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Distinguished University Professor Dr. Gary LaFree provided a virtual talk on his recent co-authored article, “A Comparison of Political Violence by Left-wing, Right-wing and Islamist Extremists in the United States and the World.” A recording of this event can be viewed at this link. If you have any questions, please email the START events team at start-events@umd.edu.

Although political violence has been perpetrated on behalf of a wide range of political ideologies, it is unclear whether there are systematic differences between ideologies in the use of violence to pursue a political cause. Prior research on this topic is scarce and mostly restricted to self-reported measures or less extreme forms of political aggression. Moreover, it has generally focused on respondents in Western countries and has been limited to either comparisons of the supporters of left-wing and right-wing causes or examinations of only Islamist extremism. In this research we address these gaps by comparing the use of political violence by left-wing, right-wing, and Islamist extremists in the United States and worldwide using two unique datasets that cover real-world examples of politically motivated, violent behaviors. Across both datasets, we find that radical acts perpetrated by individuals associated with left-wing causes are less likely to be violent. In the United States, we find no difference between the level of violence perpetrated by right-wing and Islamist extremists. However, differences in violence emerge on the global level, with Islamist extremists being more likely than right-wing extremists to engage in more violent acts.

Dr. Gary LaFree was the Founding Director of START. He was recently awarded the title of Distinguished University Professor, which is the highest academic honor conferred upon University of Maryland faculty members.