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U.S. Muslims with Radical Opinions Feel More Alienated and Depressed


This report details the seventh wave of a survey in a research project ongoing since 2012 that aims to explore the efficacy and utility of Internet polling as a tool to access opinions and attitudes of U.S. Muslims. Six previous waves of surveys were carried out prior to Wave 7, which is the focus of this report. The survey instrument used in Wave 7 included most of the same questions asked in Wave 6, with the addition of two questions about depressive symptoms. 

The seventh U.S. Muslim Internet poll was conducted from March 29 to April 11, 2017; the poll was completed by 207 participants thought to be representative of the U.S. Muslim adult population. Questions included opinions of Islamic State, opinions about the Syrian conflict and about the Syrian refugee crisis. Results indicate that U.S. Muslims continue to hold very negative opinions of suicide bombing and of ISIS, and continue to favor allowing more Syrian refugees into the United States. Positive opinions about ISIS and about suicide bombing were negatively correlated with endorsement of a “United States of Islam” and positively correlated with Alienation and Depression scales that measure feelings of isolation and social rejection and feelings of depression.

These results echo those from case studies[1] that suggested a profile of lone-wolf terrorists as disconnected-disordered. That is, results of our seventh poll of U.S. Muslims indicate that the same factors of alienation (disconnected) and depression (disordered) common among lone-wolf terrorists are also found among individuals with radical opinions.  Discussion points to implications of these results for programs of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization.

Looking back over all seven waves of our polling of U.S. Muslims, the Discussion section argues for the usefulness and efficiency of quick-turnaround Internet polling for tracking changes in opinions among small populations at risk of radicalization. 


[1] McCauley, C., & Moskalenko, S. (2014). Toward a profile of lone wolf terrorists: What moves an individual from radical opinion to radical action. Terrorism and Political Violence26(1), 69-85.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Moskalenko, Sophia, and Clark McCauley. “U.S. Muslims with Radical Opinions Feel More Alienated and Depressed,” Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. College Park, MD: START, 2017.