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The Impact of Terrorism on Political Attitudes: A Two-Edged Sword. Ami Pedahzur & Daphna Canetti-Nisim. Goals of Terrorism. 2 ‘schools’: Terrorists wishes to terrorize the public and change its political attitudes

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the impact of terrorism on political attitudes a two edged sword

The Impact of Terrorism on Political Attitudes: A Two-Edged Sword

Ami Pedahzur & Daphna Canetti-Nisim

goals of terrorism
Goals of Terrorism
  • 2 ‘schools’:
  • Terrorists wishes to terrorize the public and change its political attitudes
  • Intimidation and induction of fear are not the ends of terrorist activity but rather means to effect political change

Q: Do they success in attaining their goals?

research goals
Research goals
  • Looking at the relationships between:
  • Terrorism >> fear of terrorism
  • Terrorism >> militant attitudes
  • Terrorism * Fear of terrorism >> militant attitudes
public opinion in israel terrorism and peace making
Public Opinion in Israel: Terrorism and Peace Making
  • 1967-pre-Oslo: Israelis demand strong measures against terrorists, and do not wish to seat to the negotiation table.
  • The Oslo decade – Al Aksa intifada: a militant public + willingness for peace talks.
  • Al Aksa intifada: going back to the pre-Oslo days – a militant public who rejects any possible concessions
terrorism characteristics
Terrorism Characteristics
  • Violent acts or the threat to use violence
  • Political context or goal
  • Violence has a symbolic/deterrence dimension beyond the instrumental dimension
some implications of terrorism
Some Implications of Terrorism
  • Emotions of fear, anxiety, hysteria
  • Uncertainty as a result of the irrational character of terrorism and the randomization of its victims
  • Frustration and inability to function because of luck of clarity in regards to the goals of terrorism and available mechanisms of coping
  • The individual’s coping with continuous & intensive terrorism usually leads to an ongoing mental pressure
victims of terrorism in israel
Victims of Terrorism in Israel

1. Low socio-economic status:

  • The “bold and the beautiful” can better protect themselves
  • Goals of terrorist attacks are public places (e.g. markets; public transportation)

2. Younger people/teenagers:

They constitute a large percentage of those who use public transportation/coffee shops/dancing clubs

3. Those who live along the “seam line”:

They are an attractive target to terrorism perpetrators due to their geographic location

  • It was originated in the 12th Century. It means sudden danger. It is a sudden, unpleasant, and strong emotion which is caused by expectance or awareness to danger
  • Most researchers agree that it is a threatening and unpleasant emotion which appears as a reaction to danger
  • Fear is not the enemy but the friend of humans – it is “the red light” which helps in the process of survival
  • It allows humans to react to dangers in their environment
  • "Fear is an uneasiness of the mind, upon the thought of future danger likely to befall us." Locke.
  • "Where no hope is left, is left no fear." Milton.
terrorists and fear of terrorism
Terrorists and Fear of Terrorism
  • Anxiety, hysteria, and fear are major ‘tools’ of terrorists in their war on political goals
  • The central assumption of the terrorists is that the creation of an anarchic atmosphere, anxiety, and uncertainty, would serve as a pressure instrument on policy makers to accept the demands of terrorists
  • Terrorism within the Israeli-Palestinian context was mainly afflicted towards civilian population, and to a limited extent towards military and particular political targets
fearful individuals would present
Fearful Individuals would Present:
  • A general impatience towards ‘others’, and the tendency to ignore basic civil rights
  • A decrease in the efficiency of cognitive processes >>> irrational thinking and reliance on stereotypes
  • Greater willingness to take risks
  • Aggressive and militant reactions
framework of analysis




towards the




of casualties


of terrorist


Personal fear

National fear

Framework of Analysis

Terrorism intensity

Fear of Terrorism

Political attitudes

data sources
Data Sources

2 databases:

1. Terrorism database of the NSSC

Review of the “Ha’aretz” 1948 - 2002.

Data collection through questionnaires

regarding each terrorist incident.

A total of 2434 acts of terrorism

2. Semi-annual surveys of the NSSC

More than 2000 respondents in each survey (5 surveys so far)

Regular attitudinal Qs - To what extent do you agree with…

A total of 10,000 respondents

indices intensity of terrorism
Indices: Intensity of Terrorism
  • Monthly casualties (deaths & injuries)

2. Monthly terrorist attacks (suicide & non-suicide)

indices fear questions
Indices: Fear Questions

1. National Fear

  • Fear of terrorism within Israel that would startle the political system
  • Fear of terrorism as a strategic danger to Israel

2. Personal Fear

  • Fear of terrorism that effects daily life in Israel
  • Fear of terrorism that would injure me and my family
indices militancy
Indices: Militancy
  • WMD should be a major component in Israeli national security
  • Every military action Israel initiates is justified
  • All means are justified in Israel’s struggle against terrorism
  • In case of a missile attack, Israel is obliged to react in full power
differences in militancy between fearful and fearless
Differences in Militancy between ‘Fearful’ and ‘Fearless’
  • The lines flow differently: fearful and fearless present decrease in militancy from t1 to t2. Fearful present a major increase in t3 whereas fearless present an increase only in t4. From t3 they present opposite trends: fearful reduce militancy, whereas fearless increase militancy.
  • In general fearful are militant in levels 75.4-79.4 whereas fearless are militant in levels 55.4-62.2
  • Greatest differences were found in October 2001: 79.4-55.4=24
  • T test showed that the differences in all points of time were significant
all means are justified in the struggle against terrorism
All Means are Justified in the Struggle against Terrorism
  • Fearful individuals wish to use more force in the struggle against terrorism
  • Differences between the 2 groups were found to be significant in all 5 points
  • The most significant difference was in October 2001
summary conclusions
Summary & Conclusions
  • Is terrorism a two-edged sword?
  • Terrorism has 2 major effects: one emotional and one attitudinal
  • Terrorism generates fear which leads to changes in political attitudes, however, the changes are not in the desired direction
summary conclusions29
Summary & Conclusions
  • We could see a general increase in levels of terrorism with a pick in April 2002
  • Suicide attacks are the major cause of casualties – both attacks & casualties at their pick in April 2002
  • The highest rate of national fear was in October 2001, whereas the highest rate of personal fear was in April 2002
  • Militancy is similar in its nature to national fear – a decrease in April 2001 and a strong increase in October 2001
summary conclusions30
Summary & Conclusions
  • As opposed to some assumptions on curvilinear relationships, all correlations between terrorism variables and militancy are linear – they co-vary
  • Terrorism & fear: a relationship between suicide attacks and fear in general, and in particular personal fear
  • Fear and militancy: a relationship between national fear and militancy
  • The ‘fearful’ are more militant than the ‘fearless’, however, the differences are much more significant
summary conclusions31
Summary & Conclusions
  • As for the question of terrorism, fear of terrorism, and militancy –
  • Assuming terrorists wish to inflict fear in order to change political attitudes in a certain direction, do they manage to do so? No - during times of terrorism, the public intimidated
  • A proposed model:
  • Suicide terrorism >> personal fear >> national fear >> militant attitudes