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HOW DID UK CITIZENS REACT 
TO THE CHOICE OF THEIR COUNTRYMEN TO JOIN THE WAR IN SYRIA? 
ABOUT / 
We used social listening ...
A VERY SOCIAL PROBLEM 
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, more than 12,000 foreign fighters have travelled to jo...
A VERY SOCIAL STUDY 
How better to find out what people think of this very social war than social listening? 
We set out t...
65% 
19% 
19% 
3% 
2% 
Personal religious beliefs 
Been brainwashed 
Support a community 
Seek adventure 
Provide humanita...
5 
65% 
PERSONAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS 
Commentators imply that British citizens going to Syria are Muslims (often referred as...
6 
16% 
84% 
Disapprove 
Approve 
Sample: 427 
OncewehadfoundoutwhypeoplebelievedfightersaretravellingtoSyria,wewantedtokn...
3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO? 
WithamajorityofpeopledisapprovingofUKcitizens’involvementinthewar,wewantedtoknowwhattheythoughtshou...
LET THEM GO 
Most people feel positive or ambivalent about the departure of British citizens -on the basis that they may n...
9 
” 
Radicalised individuals 
There are some who express concerns with the return of British citizens who have been fight...
10 
” 
5. THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS 
The actions of British citizens choosing to join the fight in Syria is clearly a concern...
This is just a snapshot of our Syria Report. 
The full report contains many more insights. 
TO GET THE FULL REPORT, GET IN...
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How did uk citizens react to the choice of their countrymen to join the war in Syria?

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The Syrian war is the most socially mediated conflict to date. And it’s a conflict that is being fought online as well as on the ground.

How better to find out what people think of this very social war than social listening?

We set out to examine and analyse:
 
- How the decision of British citizens to join the war was discussed in the public, online debate.

- What people in the UK think should be done about it now and in the future.

- The place these opinions have in the broader context of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic UK.

- How public discourse regarding British citizens joining the war in Syria represents and feeds into older narratives around immigration, multiculturalism and social cohesion.

Published in: News & Politics
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How did uk citizens react to the choice of their countrymen to join the war in Syria?

  1. 1. HOW DID UK CITIZENS REACT TO THE CHOICE OF THEIR COUNTRYMEN TO JOIN THE WAR IN SYRIA? ABOUT / We used social listening research to explore the public online debate. This is a summary of the results. Copyright © 2014
  2. 2. A VERY SOCIAL PROBLEM Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, more than 12,000 foreign fighters have travelled to join the conflict. Some of them to help the uprising against the government, others to help establish the IS Caliphate, many of them simply because they want to be heroes. But whatever their reason for answering the call to arms, most of these fighters are young and tech savvy. And their knowledge of social media has created a new kind of war reportage. One that uses social platforms to broadcast to a huge worldwide audience. The Syrian war is the most socially mediated conflict to date. And it’s a conflict that is being fought online as well as on the ground. 2 Copyright © 2014
  3. 3. A VERY SOCIAL STUDY How better to find out what people think of this very social war than social listening? We set out to examine and analyse: •How the decision of British citizens to join the war was discussed in the public, online debate. •What people in the UK think should be done about it now and in the future. •The place these opinions have in the broader context of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic UK. •How public discourse regarding British citizens joining the war in Syria represents and feeds into older narratives around immigration, multiculturalism and social cohesion. HOW WE WORK… Social listening research allows us to go beyond traditional media coverage and gain a deeper understanding of how people think, talk and feel about these issues. It also lets us track and analyse changes in public opinion. We use qualitative techniques to fully explore the meaning behind each comment. More detailed and sophisticated than automated text analytics, we combine discourse and thematic analysis to get to the heart of the conversation. 3 Copyright © 2014
  4. 4. 65% 19% 19% 3% 2% Personal religious beliefs Been brainwashed Support a community Seek adventure Provide humanitarian aid WHY GO TO SYRIA? Sample: 527 AcentralpartoftheconversationaboutSyriaisthereasonwhypeopledecidetojointheconflict. Wefoundthatpeopletendedtoexplainthisinoneoffiveways: 4 Copyright © 2014 1. WHY DO YOU THINK THEY ARE GOING?
  5. 5. 5 65% PERSONAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS Commentators imply that British citizens going to Syria are Muslims (often referred as ‘British Muslims’) and that they are joining the war as jihadists or jihad fighters. ” BEING BRAINWASHED This term tends to be used to frame people’s concerns in a different way, identifying the guilty party as ‘an agent working in the shadows’ raising the spectre of the enemy within. SUPPORTING A COMMUNITY Where people think the motivation to join the fight stems from the desire to support a nation (e.g. ‘their’ Syria) or religion (a commitment to other Muslims) as the focal point. 19% Copyright © 2014 19% 1. WHY DO YOU THINK THEY’RE GOING? SEEKING ADVENTURE Individuals motivated by either physiological (testosterone), intellectual (youthful idealism) or emotional (hearing a call to action) drivers creating the need for adventure. PROVIDING HUMANITARIAN AID Discussion and opinion on this is fairly mixed. Some support humanitarian aid in Syria. Others express concerns that this aid is disguising other intentions, such as jihad and radicalisation, which enables people to travel freely to Syria. 2% 3%
  6. 6. 6 16% 84% Disapprove Approve Sample: 427 OncewehadfoundoutwhypeoplebelievedfightersaretravellingtoSyria,wewantedtoknowhowtheyfeltaboutit.Theresultswereclear: 2. GOOD OR BAD? Copyright © 2014
  7. 7. 3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO? WithamajorityofpeopledisapprovingofUKcitizens’involvementinthewar,wewantedtoknowwhattheythoughtshouldbedoneaboutit: 7 LET THEM GO CRIMINALISATION PREVENTION WHAT SHOULD WE DO? 50% 37% 13% Copyright © 2014
  8. 8. LET THEM GO Most people feel positive or ambivalent about the departure of British citizens -on the basis that they may not return (i.e. will die) or should be forbidden to return. They don’t oppose British nationals fighting abroad, but they don’t want to see the consequences of their actions back home. However, there is also a minority of people within this group who support the right of British citizens to travel to Syria. 50% CRIMINALIZATION The nature of these comments is relatively homogenous. People suggest various legislative changes, such as: banning travel to Syria, deporting British citizens or the criminalization of their family members in the UK. The feeling is that these changes to criminal law would improve the situation and make the UK safer. 37% 8 3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO? Copyright © 2014 PREVENTION Commentators here are evaluating the role of the different prevention programmes that are being put into place in the UK. However, some are also concerned with the fact that something went wrong on our end and that we should be doing more to prevent radicalization. 13%
  9. 9. 9 ” Radicalised individuals There are some who express concerns with the return of British citizens who have been fighting in Syria. This concern seems justified or influenced by: •The perception that these individuals, having been exposed to violence and extreme ideologies, are more likely to become radicalized. •The perception that the people fighting the Assad regime are particularly violent and extreme. Citing crucifixions and beheadings as examples of their behaviour. Mistrust in the government Others do not trust the UK government to be able to protect the nation from a potential security threat posed the return of British citizens from the war in Syria. This is backed up by two main arguments: •Current security resources are not enough to monitor all the people returning from Syria. •The British government was the first to think about providing military support to Assad’s opposition in Syria and some public figures showed their support of British citizens joining the conflict. The jihad that Muslims from the UK are waging in Iraq and Syria today will be waged on the streets of London tomorrow. ” We don't even know who lives in this country let alone who is in Syria. We have absolutely no control of our borders and the Government knows it. ” 4. CONCERNS ManyareclearlyconcernedwithwhatwillhappenwiththereturnofBritishcitizenswhohavebeenfightinginSyria.Theseconcernsseemtobebasedmostlyonthefollowing: Copyright © 2014
  10. 10. 10 ” 5. THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS The actions of British citizens choosing to join the fight in Syria is clearly a concern for many. Here are just a few of the insights we have gained: •The main fear appears to be that exposure to violence and extremist ideologies will ‘radicalise’ those who go. This fear of radicalisation is then expressed in terms of worries about what will happen when they return. •Talk by those in Government, police or security directly influences and frames the conversation. •Across the data British citizens joining the war in Syria are referred to as “British Muslims”, “British jihadists” or simply “jihadists”. This categorization seems to be influenced by the media coverage on this matter, which seems to portray the inevitability: British + Muslim + young + men = travelling to Syria. This is clearly not the case for the vast majority, but there seems a danger that this stereotype could gain traction. •For some, the conversation provides a scapegoat which allows them to express a hatred towards foreigners in general, and the Muslim community in particular, which is perceived, for instance as exploiting the welfare system. •We found a tendency that is not aired publicly, in multi-ethnic and multicultural Britain, but that seems to be deeply rooted in some people’s views. This is the tendency to differentiate among British citizens according to the origins of their ancestors. Thus, a division within British society is put forward: •On one side we have a strong narrative of Britishness–what it means to be British explicitly in terms of values and loyalties, and implicitly in terms of religion and ethnicity -that is ‘under attack’. •On the other side we have the enemy within, the attacker -British passport holders that are not regarded as British citizens in the deepest sense, because their loyalty lies somewhere else (e.g. with the Ummah). Copyright © 2014
  11. 11. This is just a snapshot of our Syria Report. The full report contains many more insights. TO GET THE FULL REPORT, GET IN TOUCH… Jeremy Hollow / Founder Somerset House, T135 & T136, New Wing, Strand, London WC2R 1LA t: 07799 415829 e: jeremy@listenandlearnresearch.com w: listenandlearnresearch.com @LALResearch Or connect on LinkedIn

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