Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric

in Democracy at Risk

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226520544
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226520568 | DOI:
Love Thy Neighbor? Terror Threat and the Social Fabric

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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

Chapter.  8261 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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