The moderates’ dilemma: obstacles to mobilization against Islamist extremism

Thursday, October 12, 2017
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Why do moderate majorities often fail to coordinate opposition to extremist minorities? This paper offers an explanation for the microfoundations of moderate mobilization in the face of extremist minorities using the case of Islamist extremism in Indonesia. In particular, I show that moderates and extremists face asymmetric costs in the decision to voice their true preferences resulting in a coordination dilemma for moderates, which I call the “Moderates’ Dilemma.” An original survey experiment and observational data of participant behavior during two additional surveys demonstrate that moderates hide anti-violent views for fear of reputation costs and that these effects vary by individuals’ sensitivity to reputation costs and degree of uncertainty of others’ attitudes. These findings suggest that over 16 million Indonesians may be hiding moderate preferences and have significant implications for countering violent extremism policies globally. 

Speaker Bio: Kerry Ann Carter Persen is a Carnegie Predoctoral Fellow at CISAC for the 2017-2018 academic year and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the impact of violent extremism on political behavior in the Islamic World.

In her dissertation, she develops a theory of the microfoundations of moderate mobilization against extremist groups using the case of Islamist extremism in Indonesia.  Employing fieldwork, survey data, and observational data, she shows that moderates and extremists face asymmetric costs in the decision to voice their private preferences publicly. This asymmetry results in a failure of moderates to act collectively in line with their individual beliefs, a coordination dilemma called the “Moderates Dilemma.”
Kerry’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Institute for Peace, the Horowitz Foundation, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Stanford University, among others.
Prior to graduate school, Kerry spent a Fulbright year in Indonesia and worked at the U.S-Indonesia Society in Washington, D.C. She graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College with a double major in Government and Economics.