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Threat, Anxiety, and Support of Antiterrorism Policies

Authors


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston. This research was supported by grants SES-0201650, SES-9975063, and SES-0241282 from the National Science Foundation.

Leonie Huddy is associate professor of political science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (Leonie.Huddy@stonybrook.edu). Stanley Feldman is professor of political science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (Stanley.Feldman@stonybrook.edu). Charles Taber, associate professor of political science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (Charles.Taber@stonybrook.edu). Gallya Lahav is assistant professor of political science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (Gallya.Lahav@stonybrook.edu).

Abstract

The perception of threat and the experience of anxiety are distinct but related public reactions to terrorism. Anxiety increases risk aversion, potentially undercutting support for dangerous military action, consistent with terrorists' typical aims. Conversely, perceived threat increases a desire for retaliation and promotes animosity toward a threatening enemy, in line with the usual goals of affected governments. Findings from a national telephone survey confirm the differing political effects of anxiety and perceived threat. The minority of Americans who experienced high levels of anxiety in response to the September 11 attacks were less supportive of aggressive military action against terrorists, less approving of President Bush, and favored increased American isolationism. In contrast, the majority of Americans who perceived a high threat of future terrorism in the United States (but were not overly anxious) supported the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies domestically and internationally.

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