Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $675,027)
This project will attempt to dramatically advance the empirical basis for understanding domestic radicalization by answering four key questions. First, are there important differences (contextual, personal, ideological or experiential) between radicals and/or the radicalization processes of those who accept the personal use of violence for political purposes and those who only engage in non-violent criminality? Second, what is the relationship between radical beliefs and radical behavior? Third, are there differences between radicals and radicalization processes within different ideological milieus? Fourth, how strongly supported by the empirical evidence are extant radicalization theories?
Using public sources, the project will collect datasets of attributes for approximately 1,800 individuals indicted in the United States for violent and non-violent radical crimes, equally divided between the Islamist, far left and far right milieus, detailed qualitative case studies of the life-course histories and quantitative radicalization trajectories of approximately 120 violent and non-violent radicals across these milieus. The analysis will be conducted within the life course paradigm, which provides a model for understanding how similarly situated individuals may follow divergent pathways by drawing attention to trajectories and transitions, turning points, and individual contingencies that characterize longitudinal behavioral trajectories. Specifically, the analysis will include: a robust qualitative and quantitative assessment of a representative range of extent theories of radicalization; an innovative expansion of the Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) methodology; and logit/probit models with latent variable analyses.
In addition to the academic benefits of advancing theory and methods, the combination of large sample sizes and variation on the dependent variable in this project will make it possible to draw inferences that will be both valid and generalizable about who might be at risk of radicalizing. The ability to make these inferences is absolutely critical for focusing limited resources within the White House's countering violent extremism (CVE) campaign where they will be most effective. Moreover, START's highly developed transition channels will ensure that the findings from this study will be efficiently disseminated to relevant policymakers. ca/ncf