Originally published in Newsweek
One in six French citizens sympathises with the Islamist militant group ISIS, also known as Islamic State, a poll released this week found.
The poll of European attitudes towards the group, carried out by ICM for Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya, revealed that 16% of French citizens have a positive opinion of ISIS. This percentage increases among younger respondents, spiking at 27% for those aged 18-24.
A recent Ifop poll placed French president Francois Hollande’s approval rating at just 18%.
The survey also tested attitudes in Britain and Germany and found that 7% of British citizens responded favourably to ISIS. However, UK polling showed an inverse demographic trend to that of France, with support for ISIS rising with age. 4% of 18-24-year-olds saying they either strongly or somewhat support ISIS, compared to 6% of 24-35-year-olds surveyed and 11% of 35-44-year-olds. Positive attitudes to ISIS in Germany showed less divergence, remaining between 3% and 4% for all age groups.
Newsweek’s France Correspondent, Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, was unsurprised by the news. “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” she said, “unemployed to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.” She pointed to a correlation between support for ISIS and rising anti-Semitism in France, adding that “these are the same people who torch synagogues”.
France is home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, largely of North African descent, who arrived from the 1950s onwards in the wake of France’s decolonisation and the 1970s ‘regroupement familiale‘ policy, which welcomed the families of migrant workers from ex-colonies.
ICM interviewed 3 007 respondents in Britain (1 000), France (1 006) and Germany (1 001) by telephone between 11th and 21st July this year, before the group released a video of an apparently British jihadist executing American journalist James Foley.
Last week a British MP claimed that as many as 1 500 British Muslims may have travelled to the Middle East to fight for ISIS, putting the figure at more than twice the number that fight for the British armed forces.