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Democracy at RiskHow Terrorist Threats Affect the Public$
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Jennifer L. Merolla and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226520544

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226520568.001.0001

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Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric

Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric

Chapter:
(p.75) 3 Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric
Source:
Democracy at Risk
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226520568.003.0004

How exactly might assessments and relationships among individuals shift in times of terrorist threat? This chapter offers an explanation by turning to a coping strategy: the expression of increased distrust and authoritarianism in one's assessments of other individuals. More specifically, it considers the relationship between the threat of a terrorist attack and the expression of attitudes and policy preferences that reflect decreased social trust, decreased sympathy for outgroups, increased intolerance, and increased punitiveness. Using findings from three experimental studies — two of which were conducted in the United States and one of which was conducted in Mexico — it provides evidence that terrorist threats contain the potential to rupture, not mend, a country's social fabric. In addition, terrorist threat disrupts social harmony and, to some extent, lowers sympathy for societal outgroups (gays and illegal immigrants).

Keywords:   terrorist threat, distrust, authoritarianism, social fabric, social trust, sympathy, intolerance, punitiveness, social harmony, outgroups

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