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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-81
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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