Europeans view ISIS as top threat: Survey

An Islamic State member waving a flag in Raqqa.
An Islamic State member waving a flag in Raqqa.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europeans view the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the biggest threat facing their countries, ahead of climate change, economic instability and refugees, a survey by the Pew Research Center showed on Monday.

Respondents in nine of 10 European countries surveyed said they saw ISIS, also known by the acronyms IS and ISIL, as the greatest danger, with 93 per cent of Spaniards and 91 per cent of French describing the group as a "major threat".

Most of the surveys were conducted in April, a month after militants loyal to ISIS killed 32 people at the Brussels airport and metro. The Pew report was published a day after a gunman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

Greece, struggling to return to growth after nearly seven years of recession, was the only country where respondents did not list ISIS as the top threat. Instead, 95 per cent of Greeks said that global economic instability posed the greatest risk to their country.

Strong majorities in all 10 countries listed global climate change as a major threat, but the Pew survey showed stark divisions within Europe over refugees.

In Poland, 73 per cent of respondents listed the arrival of large numbers of refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq as a major threat, the same percentage that listed ISIS as a top danger.

By comparison, only 31 per cent of Germans and 24 per cent of Swedes said they viewed refugees as a major threat, despite the fact that these two countries have accepted among the most refugees per capita in all of Europe.

On average, roughly a third of respondents across all 10 countries described tensions with Russia as well as China's emergence as a world power as major threats.

Poland was again an outlier, with 71 per cent of respondents there listing Russia as a significant danger, more than double the percentages in Italy, France, Germany and Britain.