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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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Holding Out for a Hero: Looking for Leadership in Times of Terror Threat

Holding Out for a Hero: Looking for Leadership in Times of Terror Threat

(p.99) 4 Holding Out for a Hero: Looking for Leadership in Times of Terror Threat
Democracy at Risk
University of Chicago Press

There are a number of reasons why people might rationally want to focus on strong leadership in times of threat. Strong leaders may be better able to provide protection, restore a sense of efficacy, and bring about a resolution to the given threat context. Do individuals rate political figures more highly on strong leadership in times of terrorist threat because of their actions and/or rhetoric, or do individuals come to perceive stronger leaders just given the presence of a threat? This chapter examines the extent to which individuals project leadership onto selected election candidates during times of terror threat compared to “good times” using both experimental and survey data from the United States, focusing on the 2004 U.S. presidential election and the 2006 California gubernatorial election. The results are consistent with the argument that individuals weight leadership more heavily in the voting booth during times of terrorist threat compared to other times. In short, leadership matters in times of crisis — in more ways than one.

Keywords:   leadership, United States, presidential election, terrorist threat, crisis, strong leaders, election candidates, California, gubernatorial election

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