Using Internet search data to examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS sentiment in U.S. counties.

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2018-06-06

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Abstract

Recent terrorist attacks by first- and second-generation immigrants in the United States and Europe indicate that radicalization may result from the failure of ethnic integration-or the rise of intergroup prejudice in communities where "home-grown" extremists are raised. Yet, these community-level drivers are notoriously difficult to study because public opinion surveys provide biased measures of both prejudice and radicalization. We examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) Internet searches in 3099 U.S. counties between 2014 and 2016 using instrumental variable models that control for various community-level factors associated with radicalization. We find that anti-Muslim searches are strongly associated with pro-ISIS searches-particularly in communities with high levels of poverty and ethnic homogeneity. Although more research is needed to verify the causal nature of this relationship, this finding suggests that minority groups may be more susceptible to radicalization if they experience discrimination in settings where they are isolated and therefore highly visible-or in communities where they compete with majority groups for limited financial resources. We evaluate the validity of our findings using several other data sources and discuss the implications of our findings for the study of terrorism and intergroup relations, as well as immigration and counterterrorism policies.

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10.1126/sciadv.aao5948

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Bail, Christopher A, Friedolin Merhout and Peng Ding (2018). Using Internet search data to examine the relationship between anti-Muslim and pro-ISIS sentiment in U.S. counties. Science advances, 4(6). p. eaao5948. 10.1126/sciadv.aao5948 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17349.

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Scholars@Duke

Bail

Christopher Andrew Bail

Professor of Sociology

Chris Bail is Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Public Policy at Duke University, where he founded the Polarization Lab. He studies how artificial intelligence shapes human behavior in a range of different settings—and social media platforms in particular.

 A Guggenheim Fellow and Carnegie Fellow, Chris's writing appears in leading outlets such as Science,  Nature, and the New York Times. His widely acclaimed 2021 book, Breaking the Social Media Prism, was featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and described as “masterful,” by Science Magazine. It also inspired Twitter to implement a major change to its policies designed to counter misinformation and polarization. His 2015 book, Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream, received three awards and resulted in an invitation to address the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

 Bail has also written for the Sunday Op-Ed page of the New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post Blog and appeared on NBC Nightly News, CBS, CNN, BBC, and NPR to discuss his research. His work has been covered by more than sixty media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The Atlantic, Scientific American, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Vox, Daily Kos, National Public Radio, NBC News, C-Span, and the BBC. 

​Chris is passionate about building the field of computational social science. He is the Editor of the Oxford University Press Series in Computational Social Science and the Co-Founder of the Summer Institutes in Computational Social Science, which are free training events designed to introduce junior scholars to the field that are held concurrently in a range of universities around the world each year. He also serves on the Advisory Committee to the National Science Foundation's Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and helped create Duke's Interdisciplinary Data Science Program. After the publication of his 2021 book, Chris began consulting with social media companies, non-profit groups, and governments to implement insights from his research.

​Most of the funding for Bail's research has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation, among others described on the C.V. linked on this site. Chris received his PhD from Harvard University in 2011.


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