Poll: Over a Quarter of French Young Adults Back IS

'This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,' says Newsweek correspondent.

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People holding flags with the portrait of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan as they take part in a demonstration on August 23, 2014 in Paris to support Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State..Credit: AFP

Over a quarter of young adults in France share a positive attitude toward the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to a British poll released last week.

London-based ICM Research carried out the poll in Britain, Germany and France, on behalf of Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya, to measure attitudes toward the radical Islamist group. Approximately 1,000 people in each of the three countries were interviewed in mid-July, before the publicized execution of journalist James Foley.

The poll, published in Russia Today, revealed that 27% of French residents aged 18-24 support IS, compared to just 4% in the U.K. and 3% in Germany. Support slid to 22% in the 25-34 year-old category and 20% in the 35-44 year-old category. ICM reported that the biggest opposition to France was among those aged 45 to 54.

Overall, French support averaged 15%, compared to 7% in Britain and only 2% in Germany. Support in Britain for IS was highest at 11% among respondents between the ages of 35 and 44.

“This is not a result of sympathy of a significant number of French people for this extremist terrorist organization,” Yury Rubinsky, the head of the Center of French Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Rossiya Segodnya. “This is simply a manifestation of the country’s accumulated potential rejection of the existing system as a whole. This is a form of rejection of the elites, a form of protest.”

Newsweek’s France correspondent, Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, was unsurprised by the news. “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” she told Newsweek, “unemployed to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.” She pointed to a correlation between support for ISIS and rising anti-Semitism in France, adding that “these are the same people who torch synagogues”.

French law prohibits the government from asking citizens their religion, but various estimate put the Muslim population around five-six million out of a total of around 67 million citizens, or alternately between 5 and 10 percent.