Terror attack 'one of the top worries' across the world

Poll in 8 countries shows people think govts not doing enough to combat extremism

WASHINGTON • Fear of an imminent terrorist attack is one of the top concerns of people across the globe, with most expecting extremist groups will acquire weapons of mass destruction, according to a new poll conducted in eight countries.

The survey, commissioned by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington, DC, showed that many people think their governments are not doing enough to combat violent extremism. And a majority in every country polled overwhelmingly approved all 21 options presented to them - among them, requiring identification cards for citizens and visitors; rigorous screening of immigrants; bans on incendiary religious speech; and monitoring of phone calls, e-mail and social media.

Though most respondents consider the problem of violent extremism "solvable", the poll underscored the challenges governments face.

"It shows there is so much fear and anxiety about terrorism and the reach of terrorism groups, people are willing to try just about anything, even give up constitutional protections on free speech, and identity cards, though it's not even clear what that would do," said Ms Shannon Green, head of the CSIS Commission on Countering Violent Extremism.

The online survey involved roughly 1,000 respondents in each of eight countries - the United States, France, Britain, Turkey, Egypt, China, India and Indonesia. In Turkey, seven out of 10 said terrorism was their No. 1 concern, as did four out of 10 in France. In the US, it was the second-most important issue, after the economy. Indians also placed it second, after corruption.

FEAR OF TERRORISM

There is so much fear and anxiety about terrorism and the reach of terrorism groups, people are willing to try just about anything, even give up constitutional protections on free speech, and identity cards, though it's not even clear what that would do.

MS SHANNON GREEN, head of the CSIS Commission on Countering Violent Extremism.

In virtually every country, at least three in four said they expect a terrorist attack to occur within the next year. China was the outlier, with barely half thinking an imminent attack is likely. The French were the most concerned, with 94 per cent calling it very or somewhat likely. In the US, 89 per cent said it was probably coming.

The pervasive trepidation has changed behaviours, particularly in countries that are largely Muslim. In Indonesia, where almost six in 10 people said they personally know someone who has been a victim of violent extremism, more than half the respondents said they avoid visiting certain places more than they used to. In Turkey, where four in 10 know someone touched by terrorism, six in 10 avoid public gatherings. In France, Britain and the US, in contrast, the percentages were significantly lower.

In the three Western nations of France, Britain and the US, the majorities blame "radical Islamic fundamentalists" and think anti- Western sentiment contributes to radicalisation. In the three Muslim-majority nations, blame was directed at "those who want to make Islam look bad".

Many respondents, particularly in the West, said military efforts have not been very effective and may be creating a backlash. The largely Muslim countries reflected more nuanced views, supporting economic, social and mass media programmes as effective counter- terrorism measures.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Terror attack 'one of the top worries' across the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe