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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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Coping with the Threat of Terrorism

Coping with the Threat of Terrorism

(p.25) 1 Coping with the Threat of Terrorism
Democracy at Risk
University of Chicago Press

During times of collective crisis — in particular, terrorist threat — individuals may experience heightened distress, anxiety, hopelessness, loss of control, worry, fear, and anger. By their very nature, collective crises create conditions in which solutions remain out of the reach of individual decisions or actions. Reacting to conditions of terrorist threat, people may adopt one or more coping strategies that affect how they perceive and treat fellow individuals, their political leaders, and other nations. This chapter discusses three such strategies. The first coping strategy is the expression of increased distrust and authoritarianism in one's assessments of other individuals. The second is coping via strong leadership and charisma, and searching for a heroic political leader whose status is elevated and protected in order to increase one's feelings of efficacy and/or safety. The third strategy is an increased preference for dual foreign policy objectives whereby individuals seek to “lock down” the homeland while at the same time engage abroad. The chapter concludes by considering the ways in which conditions of terrorist threat may (or may not) place democracy at risk.

Keywords:   coping strategies, democracy, terrorist threat, collective crisis, distrust, authoritarianism, leadership, charisma, foreign policy, political leader

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