RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute
Jul 15, 2021
Radical groups find military members and veterans attractive potential recruits because of their skills and training. To help address concerns about the risk of radicalization among the U.S. veteran community, the authors conducted a nationally representative survey to examine the prevalence of support for specific extremist groups and ideologies, including support for political violence.
Results from a Nationally Representative Survey of the U.S. Veteran Community
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Policymakers and researchers are increasingly concerned that the U.S. veteran community is at increased risk of radicalization to violent extremism. Although subsequently revised downward, early reports suggested that as many as one in five Capitol Hill attackers was currently or had previously been affiliated with the U.S. military. Extremist groups actively target military members and veterans for recruitment targets because of their training and operational, logistic, and leadership skills. The unique and often lonely experience of leaving the military has been hypothesized to make veterans susceptible to such recruitment.
To help address these concerns, the authors conducted a nationally representative survey of veterans to examine the prevalence of support for specific extremist groups and ideologies, including support for political violence. The authors compared their results with those from surveys of the general population. Among other findings, the veteran community, as a whole, did not manifest higher support than the general population. Interestingly, the majority of those who supported political violence were not also supporters of specific groups.
Funding for this research was made possible by a generous gift from Daniel J. Epstein through the Epstein Family Foundation and the Pritzker Military Foundation. The research was conducted by the RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute within RAND Education and Labor and the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.
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