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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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Enabling Charismatic Leadership in Times of Terror Threat

Enabling Charismatic Leadership in Times of Terror Threat

(p.121) 5 Enabling Charismatic Leadership in Times of Terror Threat
Democracy at Risk
University of Chicago Press

Few presidents have presided over as many crises as Ronald Reagan, dubbed the “Teflon president” owing to his ability to deflect criticism, negative evaluations, and even scandals. As the case of Reagan suggests, there appears to exist a strong compulsion to shield and champion charismatic leaders who hold office in times of threat. In sharp contrast to the proverbial glass ceiling that frustrates some individuals, Reagan appeared to float effortlessly above a “glass floor.” Two of the factors behind this remarkable ability are crisis and charisma. And, in some ways, Reagan was not all that unique. This chapter explores a strategy of coping with terrorist threat, which entails looking for and delegating leadership to those who appear capable of resolving the crisis. Using data from experiments undertaken in the United States and Mexico, it argues and provides evidence for a specific set of relationships among threat, charisma, and evaluative and behavioral responses. It looks at a broader array of crises (threats to physical security, the economy, and political stability) and their relationship to perceptions of charisma.

Keywords:   terrorist threat, charisma, leadership, United States, Mexico, Ronald Reagan, coping, crisis, physical security, political stability

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