Last call for votes: 2 years Post-Bin Laden survey

I’ve had the “2 Years Post Bin Laden Survey” up since the start of May and thanks to all those who have already cast their votes.  We’ve already collected hundreds of responses and the results should be a fascinating contrast on how our collective perspectives have changed with regards to terrorism, al Qaeda and Bin Laden’s legacy.  At the end of July, I’ll begin compiling the results of this year’s submissions.  In preparation, I wanted to throw up a quick post calling for any last votes for the survey.  Any and all are invited to participate, no experience or requirements to participate.

If you’d like to open the survey in a separate window, click on this link.  Or you can answer the survey here in this window below.

Thanks for participating and the results will come out soon.

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Looking Back At Perceptions Of Terrorism and Bin Laden

Two weeks ago, I launched the two year follow up to the Post Bin Laden survey to capture the collective assessment of al Qaeda and terrorism two years after the death of al Qaeda’s founder.  Thanks to all that have already voted and the polls are still open for anyone that would like to cast their vote. The more votes the better and your contributions will strengthen the analysis of they survey.  If interested, visit this link to vote and please forward to anyone that you think might be interested in voting.

Meanwhile, those new to the “Post Bin  Laden” surveys were curious what the results of past iterations looks like.  So, I decided to post a compilation of links to the results from the 1st Post-Bin Laden poll, the AQ Strategy 2011-2012 survey, the 2nd Post-Bin Laden poll, and the One Year After Bin Laden survey.

Here are the links to each of the results of these four surveys and I’ll be comparing the results of these previous iterations with the upcoming results of the “2 Years After Bin Laden” survey going on now.  Thanks for voting and here are the results from 2011-2012.

Results from the Bin Laden survey initiated on January 2, 2011:

Does Bin Laden Matter? (Jan. 2011)

Does Bin Laden Matter? Poll Results Part #1

Bin Laden Poll Analysis, Part 1b

Does Bin Laden Matter? Poll Results Part #2

Future AQ Attacks? More or Less

Results from two years ago, surveys launched immediately prior (al Qaeda Strategy 2011-2012 –  April 2011) and immediately after UBL’s death (May 2, 2011):

▪   AQ Strategy & Post UBL Poll Overview (Background Summary on Voters)

▪   Voters say Zawahiri 1 to 2 years from capture

▪   Chief Consequence of UBL’s Death

▪   AQ Leadership After Bin Laden

▪   Financial Impact on AQ Post Bin Laden

▪   AQ Donor Support Before & After UBL

▪   UBL’s Death & The Afghanistan Mission

▪   AQ Affiliates After Bin Laden

▪   AQ Affiliate Targeting Focus

▪   Crowd Considered AQ Central Top Affiliate After UBL’s Death

▪   Will AQ foreign fighters return home to fight?

▪   What will al Qaeda do?

▪   Keys to AQ’s Survival & Resurgence

▪   Western CT Main Efforts Against AQ

▪   Academics are confident – before & after Bin Laden’s death

▪   International Perspectives Increase Confidence

▪   Listen To Your Friends, Read Academic Publications, Build Your Confidence

▪  The Strength of al Qaeda’s Name: Stronger or Weaker?

Results from the “1 Year After Bin Laden” Poll initiated on May 2, 2012:


Which is it? “Drones Kill al Qaeda” – “Drones Make al Qaeda”

The past week has brought a flurry of debate sprinkled with intermittent anger over how the U.S. utilizes unmanned, armed drones to target al Qaeda members around the world.  After I wrote the post, “Americans: If you don’t want to get killed by a drone, avoid these 4 things!”, I received a flurry of hate mail (of which a fraction actually dealt with drone policy) and some positive discussion.  The debate on whether the U.S. should use drones to kill al Qaeda members hinges on two separate points of contention.

  1. Legal/Moral: Can the U.S. legally use drones to engage al Qaeda members (American or non-American)?
  2. Efficacy: Do drones eliminate more al Qaeda members than they create?

Today, I’ll focus on the latter question and save the legal/moral/ethical debate for later.

So are drones effective?  Osama Bin Laden noted in his internal documents the devastating impact of drones on al Qaeda in Pakistan.  However, Gregory Johnsen, Jeremy Scahill and other Yemen journalists/analysts see drones not as the great killer of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) but instead the primary radicalizing force for new recruits to AQAP.  So which is it? Do drones eliminate al Qaeda or do they create al Qaeda?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please cast your votes on the efficacy of drones and the results should show up after you cast your ballot.  Note, this question is only about the efficacy of drones – save your moral/legal arguments for later.  And no hedging! Is it worth continuing drone operations or not? Don’t qualify with “Sometimes” or “Depends on the conditions”. Assume that regardless of the context, the drone program will be conducted in roughly the same way with the same results.


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Is al Qaeda ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ after Bin Laden? Poll Results #11

The relative strength of al Qaeda remains a point of constant debate – a debate that grows more complicated each year as the definition of al Qaeda becomes ever more amorphous.  Earlier this week, I kicked off 2013 with a quick survey question asking readers whether they believe al Qaeda is ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ as compared to the time of Bin Laden’s death.  I’ll post the results of the 24 hours of responses here below.  But first, I wanted to show the results of this same question when asked on the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death.

Starting on May 2, 2012 through July 2012, 197 people answered the following question.

One year after the death of Bin Laden, do you believe al Qaeda as a terrorist organization is ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’? (Use an definition of ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ that you prefer)

Of the 197 votes cast, just over 75% of respondents thought al Qaeda was ‘weaker’ a year after the death of its founder.  Interesting!  The first chart here shows the percentage of each professional group choosing ‘stronger’ (blue) or ‘weaker’ (red).  Here are some results that I found interesting.

  •  Government Contractors were most likely to select al Qaeda is ‘stronger’.  Why?  I’m not sure.
  • ‘Academia’, ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Students’ were all solidly of the belief that al Qaeda is ‘weaker’.  What are they teaching in academia and how much are students influenced by their professors?  May be just a coincidence, but I do wonder.

AQ stronger weaker

The following table has the results broken out by different demographic attributes.  There were two results that were curious.

  • Those living in the DC-Baltimore corridor were more likely to say al Qaeda is ‘weaker’.
  • Those that have lived outside the U.S. and E.U. for two years or more were slightly more likely to select al Qaeda as being ‘stronger’.  While the difference isn’t large, I do find it curious that those most traveled were more alarmed about a ‘stronger’ al Qaeda.  I expected those with more travel under their belt to be less likely to believe al Qaeda is ‘stronger’.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 12.24.33 PM

Just this week, I reissued the same question that was asked on May 2, 2012. As of January 1, 2013, is al Qaeda ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’?  Here are the results of the respondents that voted to date (and feel free to cast your vote now if interested, I’ll post an updated set of results in the coming days.)

While not a large sample, in the seven months since the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death, there have been some significant changes in opinion with more believing that al Qaeda is ‘stronger’ than only a few months before.


Some were kind of enough to elaborate on their assessment during this week’s al Qaeda ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’.  Here are some of the open responses.

— As the question notes, this answer depends somewhat on one’s definition of “stronger.” While I’m not sure that al-Qaeda is (necessarily) in a particularly strong position in terms of attacking the United States, that doesn’t really seem to be what most of AQ’s branches are focusing on right now. I’d say that the domestic strength and influence of the loose affiliation of regional AQ branches throughout MENA (AQIM, AQAP, Jabhat al-Nusra, ISI/AQI, etc.) is sufficient evidence that al-Qaeda is “stronger” in the sense that they are playing a larger role within MENA itself than they were at the time of bin Laden’s death.

— I think it is getting weaker, as an organisation in Af Pak region and stronger in the mid east, like Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt.. But these may be temporary fluctuations unless its ideology is defeated.

— I find this black and white question bullshit and not nuanced. There is no such thing as ‘al-Qaeda’. It depends, which branch or region you are talking about.

— Franchises are stronger or at least holding; AQC weaker but holding

— AQAP is still viable but I think AQ core is a thing of the past. Ideological figureheads maybe, but that’s it. That may be what some AQ core envisioned all along though, to be the vanguard of a movement – not the movement itself. E. g. Abu musab al Suri’s ideas.

At the start of 2013, is al Qaeda ‘Stronger’ or ‘Weaker’?

Over the last several years, I’ve posted many survey questions at this blog.  Most of these questions have focused on terrorism and specifically al Qaeda.  In recent weeks, I’ve posted the results to several questions (here, here, here) from the “1 Year Post Bin Laden” survey which in many cases suggest that some still believe al Qaeda to be a threat and a growing one at that.

The next round of results from the “1 Year Post Bin Laden” survey will focus on voter perceptions of al Qaeda’s strength on the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death.  Before I posted these results, I thought I’d ask readers’ opinions on al Qaeda’s strength at the start of 2013, more than a year and half after Bin Laden’s death. So what do you think of al Qaeda in 2013?  Cast your vote here, and in the next post, we’ll compare the results of the vote here with the results from last May (2012).

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For al Qaeda: More ‘Unity’ or ‘Conflict’ One Year After Bin Laden? – Results #8

On May 2, 2012, the “1 Year After Bin Laden” survey asked the following question:

Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, has there been more …?

  • Conflict and competition between al Qaeda leaders and affiliates over strategic direction, or
  • Unity between al Qaeda leaders and affiliates seeking to exploit recent uprisings

I found this question particularly interesting in light of the recent debate over the Benghazi attacks.  Some have asserted the attacks were the work of “al Qaeda”.  Other reports suggest the death of U.S. Ambassador Stevens as the work of an “al Qaeda affiliate”.  Yet others say the Consulate attack came from an emerging local militant group “Ansar al Sharia“.

If one were to believe the attack were the work of a centrally directed al Qaeda, then I would assume there would be more unity between al Qaeda leaders than conflict.  Likewise, a sense of unity in terms of central direction may mesh with an AQIM link to the Benghazi Consulate attack.  However, the notion of unity appears undermined by the recent revelations that Ansar al Din maybe breaking with AQIM, while the MNLA also takes its own course in the Sahel.  Meanwhile, General Ham, the U.S. AFRICOM commander, has noted that AQIM has become a central node for coordination with Boko Haram in Nigeria. It appears there are linkages between AQAP and al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa.  But for AQAP in Yemen, seen by many as being the strongest AQ affiliate, are they really coordinating their operations with AQIM, AQ in Iraq or jihadi groups amongst the Syrian uprising?  Probably not. And what about Zawahiri? It appears the crowd doesn’t believe he is in charge of al Qaeda globally the way Bin Laden was.  So which is it, more “Unity” or  “Conflict” amongst AQ members after the death of Bin Laden?

In total, 197 respondents cast their opinions on this question and the vast majority believe al Qaeda’s members are more in conflict (77%) than in unity (23%) after the death of their founder.  The below graph shows the breakout of raw votes by professional group.  Most all professional groups voted in roughly the same proportions as the total.  However, military voters were more likely than other large sample size groups to believe AQ was showing ‘unity’ after Bin Laden’s death.  Meanwhile, ‘Private Sector’ voters were the least likely to believe AQ is cohesive – across most all questions ‘Private Sector’ voters appear to believe AQ is in a state of disarray.

The below table shows a breakdown of the votes based on different characteristics.  I highlighted in green those results reflecting a larger than average selection of ‘Conflict’ while highlighting in yellow those demographic breakdowns that chose ‘Unity’ at a higher rate than other groups.  Overall,

  • ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Government – Non Military’ selected ‘Conflict’ at higher rates.
  • All information sources appear to reflect a proportion similar to the overall average.  There was no apparent lean by ‘Social Media’ voters for this question.
  • Those ‘Residing Outside the U.S.’ were the group most likely to select AQ has had more ‘unity’.  While still only at a rate of 33%, it is interesting that those outside the U.S. may believe AQ is more organized.

Lastly, if you are confused by the term “al Qaeda” or what “al Qaeda linkages mean”, you are not alone.  The media and your Congressmen don’t know either.  For a good laugh and to enjoy the confusion, watch this clip between Anderson Cooper and Congressman Rohrabacher. Absolutely baffling! Another one of my favorite terms – “Radical Islamic Threat” – is in here.

Is Zawahiri still in control of al Qaeda? – 1 Year Post UBL Poll – Results #7

On May 2, 2012, I was curious as to what people’s perceptions were of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s leadership since Bin Laden’s death.  In total, 197 people responded to the following question:

Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, has Ayman al-Zawahiri truly taken control of al Qaeda globally – i.e. exhibiting a level of command and control equal to or greater than that of his predecessor Usama Bin Laden?

Here are the results:

  • 44 of 197 respondents (22%) selected “Yes” Zawahiri has truly taken control of al Qaeda.
  • 153 of 197 respondents (78%) selected “No” Zawahiri has not truly taken control.

Of all the questions analyzed thus far from the “1 Year Post Bin Laden Survey“, respondents across all demographic breakdowns voted in roughly the same pattern with around 20% generally selecting “Yes” Zawahiri is really in charge and roughly 80% consistently selecting “No” Zawahiri is not in charge.

Below is a chart showing the breakdown of votes by raw total across each professional category.  Only two categories appeared to be different from the rest.

  • 40% of ‘Government Contractors’ selected “Yes” Zawahiri is in control – by far the highest percentage of any professional group.
  • 100% of ‘Law Enforcement’ voters (7 total) selected “No” Zawahiri is not in control.  Despite being a small sample, cops apparently don’t think Zawahiri is all that.

The below chart shows the breakdown of votes across all demographic categories.  Again, an amazing consistency across all breakdowns.  Even ‘Social Media’ users were not very bullish on Zawahiri.

In my opinion, I believe Zawahiri doesn’t command al Qaeda to the same level as Bin Laden did.  His ability to motivate young men to al Qaeda’s cause and garner donations for al Qaeda operations is limited compared to that of Bin Laden.  However, I don’t think Zawahiri should be counted out entirely.  I believe those in al Qaeda that once had a true relationship with Zawahiri, having fought with him in Pakistan or worked with him in Egypt, still maintain close ties to the leader and remain loyal to his strategic directives.  If I had to guess, these would be the veteran al Qaeda members that came with Zawahiri to Afghanistan, his followers from Egypt and a slice of former LIFG members from the late 1990’s. Essentially, I’d estimate his influence and command resides more in North Africa than in the Arabian Peninsula. I’m working on a way to try and crowdsource where Zawahiri’s influence might still reign within al Qaeda.  Stay tuned…


Is al Qaeda recruitment increasing or decreasing? – Poll Results #6

Beginning on May 2, 2012, the “1 Year Post Bin Laden” survey asked 208 respondents the following question:

Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, has al Qaeda inspired recruitment around the world increased or decreased?

The assumption of this question was that Osama Bin Laden, as of the time of his death, still played a key role in inspiring young men to join al Qaeda.  After aggregating all the votes, 60% of all respondents believed al Qaeda recruitment had decreased in the year since Bin Laden’s death.  Below are the results of the professional group breakdown.

Fairly unremarkable, roughly 60% of all groups thought al Qaeda recruitment had decreased while the remaining 40% felt al Qaeda recruitment had increased.  The only real variance in the professional group breakdown came from ‘Academia’ where almost 70% of professors and thinktank folks seem to feel al Qaeda recruitment is down after UBL’s death.  The ‘Academia’ voters fairly consistently believe al Qaeda’s in a tough spot regardless of the question – compare the ‘Academia’ responses here with results to questions #2, #3, #4 and #5.  If I ran the same question post-Benghazi and based on current conditions in Syria, would the results be the same?

After looking at the professional groups, I broke the results down by all the demographic questions.  The below table shows the results for each factor. Those results highlighted in green show groups selecting ‘Decreased’ higher than the overall average and those results highlighted in yellow selected ‘Increased’ higher than the overall average. Here are the results I found of interest.

  • While only 5 voters (small sample) said their primary (preferred) information source was ‘Intelligence Reports’,  80% of these respondents believed al Qaeda recruitment decreased since UBL’s death.
  • Those preferring ‘Social Media’, again, appear to still be quite worried about al Qaeda.  ‘Social Media’ respondents were far more likely than average to believe al Qaeda recruitment has increased since UBL’s death.
  • Lastly, those born outside the U.S. also selected ‘Decreased’ at a higher rate than average.  The rate was only 10% higher than normal and I’m thinking its just a coincidence, but who knows.


Syria Support and ‘Loss Aversion’ – How do we think about foreign intervention? – 1 Year Post UBL – Results #5

Beginning on May 2, 2012, I wanted to find out two things with regards to one question.

  1. How supportive were voters to a Western intervention in Syria similar to the support provided to the Libyan resistance to overthrow Qaddafi?
  2. How susceptible were voters to the bias of loss aversion?  Much of the debate surrounding a Syrian intervention centers on the fear of military weapons and aid falling into the hands of al Qaeda affiliated individuals and groups.  Dan Ariely describes in his books, The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational, how fear of losses can loom larger than gains thus influencing our decisions with regards to risk. Having backed militias in Afghanistan that later provided the seeds for al Qaeda, the U.S. national debate with regards to backing the Libyan rebellion and now the Syrian uprising continually echoes with fears of “What if terrorists get our weapons?” – a justifiable fear.

To test these two things with one question, I’ve conducted a several month long experiment here at this blog via the “1 Year After Bin Laden” poll beginning on May 2, 2012 and a series of blog posts (#1,#2,#3,#4,#5,#6) during the months of August through October.  These blog posts used a variety of framing techniques designed to skew voting results with regards to ‘loss aversion’ testing (BTW – only @jeremyscahill – a journalist of course – called me out on my ridiculous framing of some of the questions).  The experiment and results come in two parts.

Experiment iteration #1 – Last question of the “1 Year After Bin Laden” survey – May 2, 2012 through July 16, 2012

Beginning on May 2, 2012, I distributed the “1 Year After Bin Laden” survey in a variety of venues.  However, there were two versions of this survey. Some respondents (90 in total) answered this question with regards to supporting Syria.

With regards to the current uprising in Syria, should the U.S. and European nations provide weapons, training and funding to the rebellion against the Assad regime if they can guarantee that 95% of all support will be gained by resistance fighters with no demonstrated connection to or ideological affinity for al Qaeda?

Some respondents (106 in total) answered this question with regards to supporting Syria – a question designed to frame the issue in terms of losses.  The hypothesis being those who receive the question referencing ‘loss of support to al Qaeda’ would select the choice to “not support the Syrian rebellion” at a higher rate.  Here’s the alternate question.

With regards to the current uprising in Syria, should the U.S. and European nations provide weapons, training and funding to the rebellion against the Assad regime even if 5% of all support provided would be lost to resistance fighters with a demonstrated connection and ideological affinity for al Qaeda?

Results Experiment #1: In this first experiment, I detected no sense of loss aversion skewing respondent choices with regards to supporting the Syrian resistance.  It didn’t matter which question voters received, they selected “Yes” or “No” in roughly the same distribution regardless of question context.  The overall balance of votes was 39% saying “Yes, we should support the rebels” and 61% saying “No, we should not support the rebels.”   In fact, those that received the loss aversion question were slightly more likely to select “Yes, we should support the rebels.”  I’ll have more analysis of these results below, but here is the breakdown chart of professional group votes for the Syria support question during the months of May through July.   Interesting points were:

  • ‘Academia’ voters were most likely to reject the notion of supporting the Syrian resistance.
  • ‘Military’ voters were more inclined to support the Syrian resistance even if some support were lost to people affiliated with al Qaeda.


Experiment iteration #2 – Single question posted at “Selected Wisdom” – August 27, 2012 through October 18, 2012

After analyzing the results from the “1 Year After Bin Laden” poll, I wondered if question wording, structure or placement made the bias of loss aversion not emerge.  Starting at the end of August, I decided to run this experiment again to look for 1) whether loss aversion was present with respondent choices and 2) if overall support for a Syrian intervention had changed since media coverage of Syria fighting became more profuse in recent months.
Through a series of blog posts on Syria and distribution of links on Twitter, several respondents (42 in total) answered this question with regards to supporting the Syrian resistance.

Should the U.S. and European nations back and resource the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria if 95% of all support will be gained by resistance fighters with no connection to or affinity for al Qaeda?

Alternatively, some blog posts and Twitter links received answers to a different question (40 in total) with regards to their support for backing the Syrian resistance – again the hypothesis being those who receive the question referencing ‘loss of support to al Qaeda’ would select the choice to “not” support the Syrian rebellion at a higher rate.

Should the U.S. and European nations back and resource the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria if 5% of all support will be lost to fighters connected to or aligned with al Qaeda?

Results Experiment #2: In the second experiment, despite significant changes in the intensity of the Syrian conflict, elapse of time, question framing, etc., I received almost the exact same results as in experiment #1.  I detected no ‘loss aversion’ bias.  Again, the overall balance of votes was 39% saying “Yes, we should support the rebels” and 61% saying “No, we should not support the rebels.”  A quick caveat, some of the voters to the second experiment were assuredly the same as those that voted in the first experiment. However, a significant amount were different as I used different and more dissemination platforms in the second experiment to gather an alternative sample.  I’ll post more cumulative analysis below, but here is a chart showing the results of experiment #2 from August 27, 2012 through October 18, 2012.

So, what does this all mean? I have lots of theories but a definitive answer would require more experimentation. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  1. The crowd showed no real bias towards ‘loss aversion‘.  Looking at the table below, across the board respondents of all demographic breakdowns were generally split at a rate of 40% for intervention (‘Yes’ -Votes) and 60% against intervention (‘No’- Votes) with one notable exception in yellow.
  2. I believe the resistance to ‘loss aversion’, assuming I properly crafted the questions, results from a highly educated audience that knows a considerable bit about counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and national security in general.  Respondent knowledge of the topic helps them offset against question framing and arrive at decisions more analytically in this context.  This doesn’t mean that if you asked the same audience ‘loss aversion’ questions about the stock market, for example, that they would be equally resistant.  My guess would be I along with many of the respondents would be much more prone to a ‘loss aversion’ bias if queried on subjects for which we have limited knowledge and less data from which to offset the fear of losses.
  3. The ‘loss aversion’ question in the context of a Syrian intervention may not have worked because many I have talked to, and several respondents noted below, have a definitive ideological stance about foreign intervention of any kind.  Essentially, many I talk to reference getting involved in Syria quickly retort with “we should never get involved in these foreign interventions, look what happened in Libya (Iraq, Afghanistan, fill in the blank).”  Others will quickly respond with, “we intervened in Libya, so why shouldn’t we help out the Syrians?”  I believe individual respondent stance on foreign intervention in general overrides any bias detection injected by me through question structure.  Whether its Syria or any country, respondents have a pre-determined position on interventions.
  4. The recent U.S. support to Libya likely plays heavy on the minds of respondents and, depending on political preferences, can shape the responses to the Syria question.  The debate on Syria currently rests in a bizarre twist as I noted in a post this week.  The GOP appeared against a Libyan intervention under the Obama administration last year, but now has gone all in for supporting a Syrian intervention.  Meanwhile, the Democratic Obama administration backed the Arab Spring uprising in Libya but seems particularly reluctant to get involved in Syria before the upcoming election.  I’m curious how this will shake out in next week’s Presidential debate, and I have no idea how this shapes respondent choices to the Syria question during Experiment #1 or Experiment #2.

I’ll conclude with some last points related to the results breakout in the table below. The table shows the results by demographic attribute in Experiment #1 across both question types -“gain” and “loss”.  The results for Experiment #2 are at the bottom.  In green, I’ve highlighted lines I found particularly interesting and in yellow I’ve highlighted the most fascinating result.  Here are some final points:

  • Those identifying ‘Social Media’ as their primary information source were more against intervention on average.  Meanwhile, those that prefer ‘Newspapers’ seemed more balanced in their support for or against an intervention in Syria.
  • Those preferring ‘Television’ as their primary information source (a small sample) were ironically more supportive of intervention in Syria.  Is this because television portrayals provide more sympathy to the opposition and relate atrocities to the viewer in a different way?  No idea, but interesting.
  • The most interesting result is in yellow and relates to whether respondents live in and around the Washington DC metropolitan area.  Those residing around the nation’s capital were 20% more likely to be against a Syrian intervention than those that are currently living outside the beltway.  How about that?  What do folks in DC believe that the rest of the U.S. and world perceives differently?
  • In Experiment #2, I thought support for a Syrian intervention might go down after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  However, the incident didn’t seem to change voting patterns.  In fact, the small sample of voters just before the attack were more against a U.S. intervention than those that voted after the Benghazi tragedy.

Here’s the full table, thanks to those that have voted and below the table are the additional comments provided by respondents to support their vote – some really insightful comments that define the key factors needing analysis as the U.S. sets its policy in Syria moving forward.


Here are the open comments submitted during experiment #1 from May through June 2012.

Here are the open comments provided during experiment #2 from the end of August through mid-October.


AQAP in Yemen Getting the Money After UBL – 1 Year After Bin Laden – Poll Results #4

In my opinion, one of the most critical questions after the death of Osama Bin Laden was where would donor funding to al Qaeda go after the death of the group’s leader?  Last year, after Bin Laden’s death, voters (40%) forecasted that Gulf donor funds would shift to AQAP in Yemen.  However, an interesting contrast occurred with ‘Private Sector’ voters, who using their experience with business and money, noted that it may instead be “Emerging Islamist Groups in North Africa amongst the Arab Spring” that receive a boost in funding.  Another interesting finding from the spring of 2011 was from the week prior to Bin Laden’s death where voters believed funding would remain focused on supporting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The implication of these two forecasts appeared clear: Bin Laden was central to drawing donor support from the Gulf.  For the full results of last year’s forecast, see this link.

A year later, on May 2, 2012, I asked the following question:

Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, the largest portion of Gulf donor contributions to extremism have gone to:

  • al Shabaab in Somalia to create an alternate safe haven for AQ
  • AQ in Iraq to counter Iraq’s Shia dominated government
  • AQ in Pakistan & the Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakistan to sustain AQ Central
  • AQAP in Yemen as a more viable group proximate to the Gulf
  • AQIM to help them exploit North African insecurity
  • Islamist groups vying for power amongst North African uprisings
  • Other

Overall, ‘AQAP in Yemen’ received the most votes across the board (40%) and the majority of every professional group.  After AQAP in Yemen, just under 20% of voters voters selected ‘AQ in Afghanistan and Pakistan’ and ‘Emerging Islamist Groups in North Africa’ –  an interesting result that concurs with the forecasts of the ‘Private Sector’ voters last year.  Essentially, voters thought the investment in an emerging al Qaeda affiliate was of equal value to backing the old original leaders of al Qaeda in Pakistan.  Here are the results for each professional category across all groups surveyed.  I went with raw vote totals for this graph and the vote totals and percentages for all demographics is below in a table.

In the following table, I’ve totaled the votes of each demographic for each terror affiliate and percentage of votes from each demographic breakdown selecting each terror affiliate.  In green I’ve highlighted a couple demographic breakdowns where the voting pattern is slightly different and higher with regards to ‘AQAP in Yemen’.

  • ‘Academia’ was more likely than the average and more likely than other professional groups to select ‘AQAP in Yemen’. ‘Academia’ was also less enthralled with ‘Emerging Islamist Groups’ than other professional groups.
  • Likewise, those that chose ‘Newspapers’ as their primary information source also selected ‘AQAP in Yemen’ at a slightly higher rate than the average.  This also makes me wonder if newspapers have been reporting on AQAP in Yemen more than other threats.  Don’t know, just a theory.

Highlighted in yellow are lines where votes were lower than average for AQAP.

  • Military voters selected ‘AQAP in Yemen’ less than any other group.  In fact, ‘Military’ voters selected ‘AQAP in Yemen’, ‘AQIM in Sahel’ and ‘AQ in AFPAK’ at roughly the same rate.  Maybe they know something the rest of us don’t know.