The Impact of Terrorism on Public Opinion - 1988 to 1989

by Theodore Downes-Le Guin, Bruce Hoffman


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This document examines the relationship between terrorism and public opinion and is based on research that was conducted in 1988 and 1989 as part of a study examining the impact of terrorism on the public. The authors look at the relationship on two levels. On a descriptive level, they examined how the public reacts to terrorism and terrorists and elicited its preferences for terrorist countermeasures. On a systematic level, they posited some ideas for how the data may be interpreted in the context of contemporaneous terrorist countermeasure policy. The analysis used data from 1988 and 1989, a period of relatively intense activity for and political sensitivity to international terrorism. The study concludes that the majority of people realize what a complex problem terrorism presents. What people are evidently ready for is more considered--and more flexible--policy and response. In contrast to the rigid "no blackmail, no concessions" policies that successive U.S. presidential administrations have embraced, at least publicly, there appears to be support for a more flexible policy in dealing with hostage episodes that would allow greater room for maneuver than in the past.

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