• Open Access

Public perceptions of the threat of terrorist attack in Australia and anticipated compliance behaviours


Correspondence to:
Garry Stevens, Senior Research Fellow, School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Building EV, Parramatta Campus, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith NSW DC1797. Fax: (02) 9685 9554; e-mail: g.stevens@uws.edu.au


Objective: To determine the perceived threat of terrorist attack in Australia and preparedness to comply with public safety directives.

Methods: A representative sample of 2,081 adults completed terrorism perception questions as part of the New South Wales Population Health Survey.

Results: Overall, 30.3% thought a terrorist attack in Australia was highly likely, 42.5% were concerned that self or family would be directly affected and 26.4% had changed the way they lived due to potential terrorist attacks. Respondents who spoke a language other than English at home were 2.47 times (Odds Ratios (OR=2.47, 95% CI:1.58-3.64, p<0.001) more likely to be concerned self or family would be affected and 2.88 times (OR=2.88, 95% CI:1.95-4.25, p<0.001) more likely to have changed the way they lived due to the possibility of terrorism. Those with high psychological distress perceived higher terrorism likelihood and greater concern that self or family would be directly affected (OR=1.84, 95% CI:1.05-3.22, p=0.034). Evacuation willingness was high overall but those with poor self-rated health were significantly less willing to leave their homes during a terrorism emergency.

Conclusion: Despite not having experienced recent terrorism within Australia, perceived likelihood of an attack was higher than in comparable western countries. Marginalisation of migrant groups associated with perceived terrorism threat may be evident in the current findings.

Implications: This baseline data will be useful to monitor changes in population perceptions over time and determine the impact of education and other preparedness initiatives.