A repeated cross-sectional study of sympathy for violent radicalization in Canadian college students
The upsurge in violent radicalization is associated with a global increase in social inequalities and conflicts related to different markers of identity. To date, literature on the factors associated with legitimizing violence toward others is cross-sectional and does not provide information on the possible change of this phenomenon over time. Such information is necessary to design primary prevention programs that are adapted to and address a rapidly evolving social context. We use a repeated cross-sectional study design to explore the association between sociodemographic characteristics and scores on the Sympathy for Violent Radicalization Scale (SVR) in Quebec (Canada) college students at 2 times points. Results from an online survey completed by students of 6 colleges in 2015 (n = 854) and 2017 (n = 702) indicate that although overall scores on the SVR scale remained stable, there were changes in the association between age, identity, and the outcome at the two time points. Specifically, scores on the SVR were significantly higher among younger students in 2017 than in 2015. In addition, in 2017 we observed a relationship between collective identity and SVR that was not present in 2015. These results align with other recent studies in Canada and the U.S. documenting the emergence of new forms of youth politicized bullying associated with race, ethnicity, and religion. A close monitoring of the phenomenon is warranted to both better understand the impact of populist policies on the increase in hate incidents and crimes and develop programs to address these forms of violence from a public health perspective.