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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

(p.75) 3 Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric
Democracy at Risk
University of Chicago Press

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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