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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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