Skip to main content

Elite Competition, Religiosity, and Anti-Americanism in the Islamic World

  • LISA BLAYDES (a1) and DREW A. LINZER (a2)

The battle for public opinion in the Islamic world is an ongoing priority for U.S. diplomacy. The current debate over why many Muslims hold anti-American views revolves around whether they dislike fundamental aspects of American culture and government, or what Americans do in international affairs. We argue, instead, that Muslim anti-Americanism is predominantly a domestic, elite-led phenomenon that intensifies when there is greater competition between Islamist and secular-nationalist political factions within a country. Although more observant Muslims tend to be more anti-American, paradoxically the most anti-American countries are those in which Muslim populations are less religious overall, and thus more divided on the religious–secular issue dimension. We provide case study evidence consistent with this explanation, as well as a multilevel statistical analysis of public opinion data from nearly 13,000 Muslim respondents in 21 countries.

Corresponding author
Lisa Blaydes is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, Encina Hall West, Suite 100, Stanford, CA 94305 (
Drew A. Linzer is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Emory University, 102 Tarbutton Hall, 1555 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 (
Hide All
Abdallah Abdel Mahdi. 2003. “Causes of Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: A Socio-Political Perspective.Middle East Review of International Affairs 7 (4): 6273.
Ajami Fouad. 1992. The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ajami Fouad. 2001. “What the Muslim World is Watching.” New York Times Magazine, November 18.
Ajami Fouad. 2003. “The Falseness of Anti-Americanism.” Foreign Policy (September/October): 52–61.
Akyol Mustafa. 2008. “The Kemalist Crusade against ‘Imperialism’ (aka the EU).” Turkish Daily News, May 10.
Ansolabehere Stephen, Rodden Jonathan, and Snyder James M.. 2008. “The Strength of Issues: Using Multiple Measures to Gauge Preference Stability, Ideological Constraint, and Issue Voting.American Political Science Review 102 (2): 215–32.
Banks Arthur S., Muller Thomas C., and Overstreet William R., eds. 2007. Political Handbook of the World. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Boukhars Anouar. 2011. Politics in Morocco: Executive Monarchy and Enlightened Authoritarianism. London: Routledge.
Bowen John R. 2007. “Anti-Americanism as Schemas and Diacritics in France and Indonesia.” In Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, eds. Katzenstein Peter and Keohane Robert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 227–50.
Browers Michaelle. 2009. Political Ideology in the Arab World: Accommodation and Transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cagaptay Soner. 2004. “Where Goes the U.S.-Turkish Relationship?Middle East Quarterly 11 (4): 4352.
Cagaptay Soner. 2008. “The Most Anti-American Nation.” Newsweek, November 15.
Charney Craig. 2005. “Morocco: The Price of Anti-Americanism.”, January 7.
Chiozza Giacomo. 2007. “Disaggregating Anti-Americanism: An Analysis of Individual Attitudes toward the United States”. In Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, eds. Katzenstein Peter and Keohane Robert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 93126.
Chiozza Giacomo. 2009. Anti-Americanism and the American World Order. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Clark Andrew F. 1999. “Imperialism, Independence, and Islam in Senegal and Mali.” Africa Today 46 (3/4): 149–67.
Cole Juan. 2006. “Anti-Americanism: It's the Policies.American Historical Review Forum 111 (4): 1120–29.
Criss Nur Bilge. 2002. “A Short History of Anti-Americanism and Terrorism: The Turkish Case.Journal of American History 89 (2): 472–84.
Damore David F. 2004. “The Dynamics of Issue Ownership in Presidential Campaigns.Political Research Quarterly 57 (3): 391–97.
Damore David F. 2005. “Issue Convergence in Presidential Campaigns.Political Behavior 27 (1): 7197.
Dieye Abdoulaye. 2009. Secularism in Senegal: Withstanding the Challenge of Local Realities. Evanston, IL: Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa, Buffett Center, Northwestern University.
Doran Michael. 2002. “The Pragmatic Fanaticism of al Qaeda: An Anatomy of Extremism in Middle Eastern Politics.Political Science Quarterly 117 (2): 177–90.
Druckman James N., and Lupia Arthur. 2000. “Preference Formation.” Annual Review of Political Science 3: 124.
Entelis John. 1989. Culture and Counterculture in Moroccan Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Esposito John, and Mogahed Dalia. 2008. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York: Gallup Press.
Faath Sigrid, and Mattes Hanspeter. 2006. “Between Anti-Americanism, Criticism of America and Americanism.” In Anti-Americanism in the Islamic World, ed. Faath Sigrid. London: Hurst and Company, 219–38.
Finke Roger, and Stark Rodney. 1988. “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.American Sociological Review 53 (1): 41–9.
Fuller Graham E. 2002. “The Future of Political Islam.Foreign Affairs 81 (2): 4860.
Gabel Matthew, and Scheve Kenneth. 2007. “Mixed Messages: Party Dissent and Mass Opinion on European Integration.European Union Politics 8 (1): 3759.
Gallup, Inc. 2008. Global Views of U.S. Leadership. (accessed March 7, 2012).
Gelman Andrew, and Hill Jennifer. 2007. Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gentzkow Matthew A., and Shapiro Jesse M.. 2004. “Media, Education and Anti-Americanism in the Muslim World.Journal of Economic Perspectives 18 (3): 117–33.
Gill Anthony. 1998. Rendering unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Guney Aylin. 2008. “Anti-Americanism in Turkey: Past and Present.Middle Eastern Studies 44 (3): 471–87.
Hale William. 2002. “Democracy and the Party System.” In Turkish Transformation: New Century – New Challenges, ed. Beeley Brian. Huntingdon, UK: Eothen Press, 165–97.
Hammond Andrew. 2007. What the Arabs Think of America. Oxford: Greenwood World.
Haynes Jeff. 1996. Religion and Politics in Africa. London: Zed Books.
Hunter Shireen. 1995. “The Rise of Islamist Movements and the Western Response: Clash of Civilizations or Clash of Interests?” In The Islamist Dilemma: The Political Role of Islamist Movements in the Contemporary Arab World, ed. Guazzone Laura. London: Ithaca Press, 317–50.
Hunter Shireen. 1998. The Future of Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations or Peaceful Coexistence. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Inglehart Ronald, and Welzel Christian. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jackman Simon. 2000. “Estimation and Inference Are Missing Data Problems: Unifying Social Science Statistics via Bayesian Simulation.Political Analysis 8 (4): 307–32.
Kalaycioglu Ersin. 1999. “The Shaping of Party Preferences in Turkey: Coping with the Post-Cold War Era.” New Perspectives on Turkey 20: 4776.
Katzenstein Peter, and Keohane Robert. 2007. “Varieties of Anti-Americanism: A Framework for Analysis.” In Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, eds. Katzenstein Peter and Keohane Robert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 938.
Keohane Robert, and Katzenstein Peter. 2007. “The Political Consequences of Anti-Americanism.” In Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, eds. Katzenstein Peter and Keohane Robert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 273305.
Kinder Donald R. 1998. “Communication and Opinion.” Annual Review of Political Science 1: 167–97.
King Gary, Keohane Robert O., and Verba Sidney. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kizilbash Hamid H. 1988. “Anti-Americanism in Pakistan.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 497 (1): 5867.
Kohut Andrew, and Stokes Bruce. 2006. America against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked. New York: Holt and Company.
Krastev Ivan. 2004. “The Anti-American Century?Journal of Democracy 15 (2): 516.
Lewis Jeffrey, and Linzer Drew. 2005. “Estimating Regression Models in which the Dependent Variable Is Based on Estimates.Political Analysis 13 (4): 345–64.
Linzer Drew A., and Lewis Jeffrey. 2011. “poLCA: An R Package for Polytomous Variable Latent Class Analysis.Journal of Statistical Software 42 (10): 129.
Loimeier Roman. 1996. “The Secular State and Islam in Senegal.” In Questioning the Secular State: The Worldwide Resurgence of Religion in Politics, ed. Westerlund David. London: C. Hurst and Co., 183–97.
Lunn D. J., Thomas A., Best N., and Spiegelhalter D.. 2000. “WinBUGS—A Bayesian Modelling Framework: Concepts, Structure, and Extensibility.” Statistics and Computing 10: 325–37. (accessed March 7, 2012).
Lynch Marc. 2007. “Anti-Americanism in the Arab World.” In Anti-Americanisms in World Politics, eds. Katzenstein Peter and Keohane Robert. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 196224.
Mahmood Saba. 2004. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Makdisi Ussama. 2002. “‘Anti-Americanism’ in the Arab World: An Interpretation of a Brief History.Journal of American History 89 (2): 538–57.
Mitchell Timothy. 2004. “American Power and Anti-Americanism in the Middle East.” In Anti-Americanism, eds. Ross Andrew and Ross Kristin. New York: New York University Press, 87105.
Munson Henry. 1993. Religion and Power in Morocco. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Murphy Carlyle. 2002. Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East—The Egyptian Experience. New York: Scribner.
Naím Moisés. 2003. “Missing Links: The Perils of Lite Anti-Americanism.” Foreign Policy 136: 95–6.
Nisbet Erik, and Myers Teresa. 2011. “Anti-American Sentiment as a Media Effect? Arab Media, Political Identity, and Public Opinion in the Middle East.Communication Research 38 (5): 684709.
Nisbet Erik, and Shanahan James. 2008. “Anti-Americanism as a Communication Problem? Foreign Media and Public Opinion toward the United States in Europe and the Middle East.” American Journal of Media Psychology 1 (1/2): 735.
Nye Joseph. 1990. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. New York: Basic Books.
Nye Joseph. 2004. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs.
O'Brien Donal B. Cruise. 2003. Symbolic Confrontations: Muslims Imagining the State in Africa. New York: Palgrave.
Owen John M. 2010. The Clash of Ideas in World Politics: Transnational Networks, States, and Regime Change, 1510–2010. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Parker Richard B. 1988. “Anti-American Attitudes in the Arab World.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 497 (1): 4657.
Paz Reuven. 2003. “Islamists and Anti-Americanism.Middle East Review of International Affairs 7 (4): 5361.
Petrocik John. 1996. “Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case Study.American Journal of Political Science 40 (3): 825–50.
Pew Global Attitudes Project. 2007. “Global Unease with Major World Powers: Rising Environmental Concern in 47-Nation Survey.” (accessed March 7, 2012).
Pew Global Attitudes Project. 2009. “Confidence in Obama Lifts U.S. Image around the World: Most Muslim Publics Not So Easily Moved.” (accessed March 7, 2012).
Pew Research Center. 2009. “Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population.” (accessed March 7, 2012).
Pfau Michael, and Kenski H. C.. 1990. Attack Politics: Strategy and Defense. New York: Prager.
Pollock Robert. 2005. “The Sick Man of Europe—Again.” Wall Street Journal, February 16.
R Development Core Team. 2011. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. (accessed March 7, 2012).
Reetz Dietrich. 2006. “Pakistan.” In Anti-Americanism in the Islamic World, eds. Faath Sigrid. London: Hurst, 182–96.
Roy Olivier. 1994. The Failure of Political Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rubinstein Alvin Z., and Smith Donald E.. 1988. “Anti-Americanism in the Third World.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 497 (1): 3545.
Sater James. 2010. Morocco: Challenges to Tradition and Modernity. London: Routledge.
Schatz Edward. 2008. “Anti-Americanism and America's Role in Central Asia.” National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. University of Toronto. Working paper.
Shahin Emad Eldin. 1994. “Secularism and Nationalism: The Political Discourse of ‘Abd al-Salam Yassin.” In Islamism and Secularism in North Africa, ed. Ruedy John. New York: St. Martin's Press, 167–86.
Shore Zachary. 2005. “Can the West Win Muslim Hearts and Minds?Orbis 49 (3): 475–90.
Somer Murat. 2007. “Moderate Islam and Secularist Opposition in Turkey: Implications for the World, Muslims and Secular Democracy.Third World Quarterly 28 (7): 1271–89.
Spiliotes Constantine J., and Vavreck Lynn. 2002. “Campaign Advertising: Partisan Convergence and Divergence?Journal of Politics 64: 249–61.
Stark Rodney, and McCann James. 1993. “Market Forces and Catholic Commitment: Exporing the New Paradigm.Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 32 (2): 111–24.
Sturtz Sibylle, Ligges Uwe, and Gelman Andrew. 2005. “R2WinBUGS: A Package for Running WinBUGS from R.Journal of Statistical Software 12 (3): 116.
Sutton Philip, and Vertigans Stephen. 2005. Resurgent Islam: A Sociological Approach. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Taspinar Omer. 2005. The Anatomy of Anti-Americanism in Turkey. Working Paper. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Tessler Mark. 2003. “Arab and Muslim Political Attitudes: Stereotypes and Evidence from Survey Research.” International Studies Perspectives 4: 175–81.
Thornton Thomas Perry. 1988. “Preface.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 497 (1): 919.
Villalón Leonardo. 1995. Islamic Society and State Power in Senegal: Disciples and Citizens in Fatick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Waterbury John. 1970. The Commander of the Faithful: The Moroccan Political Elite — A Study in Segmented Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.
Western Bruce. 1998. “Causal Heterogeneity in Comparative Research: A Bayesian Hierarchical Modelling Approach.American Journal of Political Science 42 (4): 1233–59.
Wickham Carrie Rosefsky. 2002. Mobilizing Islam: Religion, Activism, and Political Change in Egypt. New York: Columbia University Press.
World Bank. 2008. World Development Indicators. Geneva: World Bank.
Zaller John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zaman Amberin. 2007. “Secular Turks Stage Mass Anti-Government Rally.” Voice of America, May 13.
Zeghal Malika. 2008. Islamism in Morocco: Religion, Authoritarianism and Electoral Politics. Princeton: Markus Wiener.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Blaydes and Linzer supplementary material

 PDF (88 KB)
88 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 26
Total number of PDF views: 245 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1166 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.