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Counterterrorism, Counterframing, and

Perceptions of Terrorist (Ir)rationality


Thomas Wynter
Journal of Global Security Studies, Volume 2, Issue 4, 1 October 2017, Pages 364
376,https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogx017
Published:

30 October 2017
Abstract
Research on post-9/11 counterterrorism policy preferences in the West has focused primarily on the
role of emotions and the magnitude of threat perception. In this article, I demonstrate the central role
played by perceptions of the nature of the terrorist threat. Specifically, I focus on the divergence
between the dominant depiction of terrorist irrationality in elite discourse in Australia and the
strategic model in the academic literature. Reporting on the results of a randomized survey-
experiment (N=803), I find that exposure to excerpts from the academic literature significantly
increases perceptions of terrorist rationality. Perceptions of terrorist rationality, in turn, correlate with
lower levels of support for military responses to terrorism. While exposure to descriptive text about a
terrorist attack increases support for military responses to terrorism, subsequent exposure to excerpts
from the academic literature mitigates this effect, reducing support for military responses to
terrorism.

The literature on the factors influencing counterterrorism policy preferences primarily focuses on
the effects of fear, anxiety, anger, and threat (Gadarian 2010; Gadarian 2014; Huddy et al.
2002; Huddy et al. 2005; Iyer et al. 2014; Lerner et al. 2003). In the wider literature, scholars
find that publics perceive terrorists to be irrational, contra the dominant strategic model in the
academic literature (Hoffman 2006, 229; Kydd and Walter 2006; Sandler 2014). However,
scholarship linking perceptions of the nature of terrorism and its relationship to threat mitigation
policy preferences remains scant, with the notable exception of Pronin, Kennedy, and Butsch
(2006), who find that perceptions of terrorist irrationality correlate with support for militaristic
counterterrorism policies. Abrahms (2013) develops this further, finding support for the
existence of a cognitive heuristic in which publics infer extreme goals directly from the use of
extreme tactics, what he terms the correspondence of means and ends bias. Still, significant
questions remain regarding the extent to which this association is conditioned by elite framing
and whether counterframing may mitigate its effects.

This article addresses these questions through an experimental investigation (N=803) of


Australian public perceptions of terrorist (ir)rationality and counterterrorism policy preferences.
In this study, participants were randomly assigned to a brief description of a terrorist attack (text
control) followed by either real-world excerpts from existing political rhetoric (politics) or
from the academic literature on terrorism (academic). The results show that respondents perceive
terrorists to be predominantly irrational and that these perceptions are associated with support for
militaristic counterterrorism policies. While exposure to the description of the terrorist attack
increased support for such policies, subsequent exposure to excerpts from the academic literature
significantly mitigated this effect, increasing perceptions of terrorist rationality and reducing
support for militaristic counterterrorism policies.

Provoking miscalculation is a core strategy of campaigns of terrorist violence, and hence the
dynamics governing public responses to terrorism are of major scholarly significance. Since
terrorists often seek to elicit an irrational, emotional response (Hoffman 2002, 314) from target
publics, and since public opinion both constrains and enables the formulation of foreign policy,
means of mitigating such responses are of the utmost importance in counterterrorism
policymaking. The established literature contending that states responses to terrorism often
cause more damage than the terrorist attacks that stimulate them (Fromkin 1975; Mueller 2005)
underscores the importance of foreign policy elites having means at their disposal to counteract
the reflexive, and predictable, militaristic urges that terrorist violence engenders in target publics.
The experimental findings reported in this article indicate a viable approach to mitigating this
reaction, affording states the strategic flexibility that is both required by the dynamism of the
terrorist threat environment and inhibited by acts of terrorist violence.

Emotions, Perceptions, and Counterterrorism as


Foreign Policy

Studies on fear-inducing cues (Gadarian 2010), images (Gadarian 2014), and terrorist messages
(Iyer et al. 2014), and the distinct effects of fear, anxiety, anger, and threat (Huddy and Feldman
2011; Lerner et al. 2003), have provided invaluable insights into the psychological underpinnings
of counterterrorism policy preferences. Huddy et al. (2002, 507) differentiate perceived personal
threat from perceived national threat and note that [f]urther research is needed to untangle
whether the effects of personal threat are confined to the adoption of more cautious personal
behaviors, or whether they extend to support for national policies designed to minimize the threat
of terrorism. Huddy et al. (2005, 593, 604) develop this further, finding that while anxiety
increases risk aversion, potentially undercutting support for dangerous military action, a
perception of high terrorist threat will likely promote public support for aggressive national
security policy. While affective responses to terrorism and perceptions of the extent of the threat
are centrally important, there remains a significant deficit in attention to cognitive perceptions of
the nature of the threat itself.

Terrorism, as a form of mass psychological warfare, is often explicitly about public opinion.
That [m]ost individuals do not assess threat to personal and national security on the basis of
direct experience (Slone 2000, 509) is especially important with regard to terrorist violence, for
which the target population is well beyond the immediate victims. Thus, the way that elites
frame terrorismdefined by Entman (1993, 52) as to select some aspects of a perceived
reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a
particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment
recommendationis fundamentally important to the counterterrorism policies made available,
and demanded, by public opinion.

Post-9/11 Framing of Terrorism in Australia

Post-9/11, Australian political elites consistently framed terrorism as irrational, emphasizing the
mindless, deranged, apocalyptic, indiscriminate, and random nature of terrorist
violence, whose perpetrators are motivatedwhere motive is mentioned at allby blind
hatred, most often of our way of life, what we believe in, or what we stand for (Wynter
2015). There is a significant literature on the weakness of media scrutiny of this depiction (Aly
and Green 2010; Hocking 2003; 2004); in the words of the media columnist of Australia's largest
circulation national newspaper, The Australian, [t]he media has, more or less, tended to let the
politicians run with the terrorism story (Hirst and Schtze 2004, 175). While political elites are
constrained by the need to maintain message congruence, the media is inherently diverse, and so
it is beyond the scope of this study to validate such claims, as has been done elsewhere (Wynter
2015).
Political rhetoric provides a substantially clearer picture. During John Howard's tenure as prime
minister between March 1996 and December 2007, his rhetoric played by far the most significant
discursive role in influencing public perceptions. During this time, Howard shaped much of
Australia's defence and foreign policy and is widely regarded as a skillful communicator . . .
[whose] public comments about terrorism have been both influential and prolific (de Castella,
McGarty, and Musgrove 2009, 6). More than 30 percent of his speech transcripts in the official
archives between 9/11 and the end of his time in office referred to terrorism (Figure
1; Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2017), and his message was as consistent as it was
unequivocal, as can be seen in the following statements:

Terrorism is by its character indiscriminate, irrational, and totally unpredictable. (Howard 2002a)

International terrorism of the type that we experienced on the 11th of September and in Bali is a
product of a blind hatred of our way of life [I]t's something that is not rationally based
(Howard 2003a)

Terrorism knows no rationality, and defies in terms of ordinary behaviour, predictability.


Terrorists oppose us not because of what we have done, [but] they oppose us because of who we
are and what we believe in. (Howard 2006)

Terrorists hate our freedom. (Howard 2003b)


Figure 1.

Prime minister Howard's political communications (19962007)

Terror speeches are transcripts containing the terms terror, terrorism, terrorist, or terrorists
*

This depiction stands in direct contradiction to the dominant strategic model of the academic
literature that holds that many perpetrators of terrorist violence have preferences (which are
connected and transitive), thoroughly weigh the costs and benefits of the expected outcome for
the available options for action, and choose the one that promises the highest expected utility in
political terms (van Um 2011, 163). Such behavior is particularly evident at the organizational
level (Chenoweth, Miller, and McClellan 2009). This literature illustrates the strategic nature of
the use of terrorist violence, the tactics and strategies employed in pursuit of political goals, and
the coherent and discernible logic for explaining and predicting the timing, types, and targets of
its use according to the specific goals, capabilities, and tactics of the organizations that utilize
terrorist violence (Berman and Laitin 2005; Enders and Su 2007; Hoffman,2006; Kydd and
Walter 2002; Lake 2002; Pape 2005; Rosendorff and Sandler 2005; Valentino 2005).

Howard's command over the discourse on terror emanated from five conditions conducive to the
post-9/11 frame reset influencing public perceptions of terrorism: (1) pre-9/11, the salience of
terrorism in Australia was extremely low, and hence so were the levels of existing stores of
information to provide inertial resistance (Figure 1; Zaller 1992) to the new frame created
under crisis conditions; the lack of opposition was likely crucial since [c]itizens should be more
susceptible to framing in the early stages of exposure to an issue (Chong and Druckman 2007,
118); (2) terrorism is an unobtrusive phenomenon (Zucker 1978)that is, the public has few
informational inputs to inform their perceptions of terrorism beyond elite discourse; (3) Howard
received strong bipartisan support on terrorism from a weak opposition that cycled through five
leaders between 9/11 and the end of his time in office, as well as a sustained post-9/11 spike in
personal and party support (Williams,2002); (4) there was an inverse relationship between the
presence of media scrutiny of, and opposition to, his terrorism rhetoric and the salience of the
issue as a function of the rally effect (Schubert, Stewart, and Curran 2002; Wynter 2015);
finally, (5) the topic suffered from a Manichean discourse, in which those who questioned the
dominant frame were explicitly denounced as apologists for terrorists (Howard 2003c).

If such political framing serves to decrease public perceptions of terrorist rationality, the
ramifications for counterterrorism policy are wide-ranging. As I will show below, framing of
terrorist attacks can significantly influence both perceptions of terrorist rationality and
counterterrorism policy preferences, which may in turn influence major domestic and foreign
policy decisions at the highest levels.

Terrorist Rationality and Counterterrorism Policy

The different degrees of terrorist rationality conveyed by Australia's dominant discursive


depiction and the countervailing frame in the academic literature is crucial because there is a
sound theoretical logic, as well as preliminary empirical support, for a causal relationship
between perceptions of terrorist rationality and counterterrorism policy preferences.
Foundationally, terrorists levels of responsiveness to changes in the cost-benefit environment
are a key determinant of the probability of success of many, if not most, counterterrorism
policies. The extent to which it is believed that an adversary's behavioral patterns can be
changed, and the mechanisms by which this can be achieved, are intrinsically linked to the
perceived nature of terrorists incentive structures. Irrational actors by nature cannot have their
incentive structures altered. In other words, their calculus of potential actions cannot be changed;
they cannot be dissuaded, only destroyed (Caplan 2006; Trager and Zagorcheva 2006).
Irrational terrorists tactics are indistinguishable from their strategy. From this perspective,
attacks on civilians really do appear to be, as they are so often called, random, rather than a
violent means in pursuit of a strategic end.

It is logically consistent with this perspective to oppose counterterrorism strategies that rely on
terrorists having rational, strategic, goal-oriented incentive structures, such as negotiations and
diplomacy, and instead to prefer military means of counterterrorism. If, however, terrorists are
perceived to act broadly rationallythat is, according to dynamic cost-benefit analyses, in
pursuit of relatively stable goalsthen, under some circumstances, negotiations or diplomacy
may be less costly than militaristic policies. Of course, air strikes, assassinations, and the
deployment of ground troops may also be used to raise costs or eliminate threats against
rational terrorists and compromise may be eschewed to prevent incentivizing further terrorist
attacks, but these are situational imperatives. The perception that terrorists are irrational virtually
precludes approaches other than elimination. If, however, terrorists have incentive structures that
are sensitive to costs and employ tactics optimally commensurate with their goals and
capabilities, they may be able to be dissuaded from violence through traditional carrot-and-stick
approaches.

This logic is supported by Pronin, Kennedy, and Butsch's (2006, 391) finding that, [w]hen
participants were induced to view terrorists as irrational and biased, they endorsed unilateral
militaristic responses. When they were induced to view terrorists as rational and objective, they
endorsed diplomatic bilateral efforts. However, while the experiments in that study provide the
clearest current examination of the perception-policy preference nexus, they are limited by the
Ivy League undergraduate sample and the assignment into idealized
binary rational and irrational treatment conditions with no control group.1 The experiment that I
conduct redresses these issues by assigning real-world treatment texts taken directly from the
discourses they sought to represent to a reasonably representative sample of 803 Australians. I
also measure average treatment effects against control groups. I derive the following hypotheses
from the above review:
H1:Stronger perceptions of terrorist irrationality will correlate with greater support for
militaristic counterterrorism policies.

H2:Exposure to the dominant irrationalist frame in the politics treatment will result in weaker
perceptions of terrorist rationality and higher support for militaristic counterterrorism policies.

H3:Exposure to the countervailing rationalist frame in the academic treatment will result in
stronger perceptions of terrorist rationality and lower support for militaristic counterterrorism
policies.

To test the hypotheses, I embed a randomized experiment in an online survey of 803 Australian
citizens living in Australia, conducted between November 15 and November 28, 2013.
Participants are recruited by Survey Sampling International, through the survey research firm
Qualtrics, on an opt-in basis with stratified quota controls to ensure a reasonably representative
sample (Mage=50.23, standard deviation=15.4, age range=1886, 396 males, 407 females).
The median respondent takes sixteen minutes to complete the experiment and received
redeemable points that could be used toward prizes such as SkyMiles or apparel for participating.
The survey experiment comprises three parts: two questionnaires and a randomized treatment
text embedded between them. The first questionnaire consists primarily of questions about
demographic information, media consumption habits, political participation, political views, and
a range of foreign and domestic policy preferences. Upon completion of the first questionnaire,
the participants are assigned one of three randomized treatments: (1) text control, (2) politics,
and (3) academic, or the control. The second questionnaire consists primarily of questions about
the rationality of terrorism, perceived personal threat from terrorism, and counterterrorism policy
preferences.2

Measures

Perceptions of terrorist rationality are measured using a seven-point scale (never=0;


always=6) constructed from five questions employing this same scale that addresses different
aspects of terrorist rationality (Cronbach's =0.73). The specific questions are:

1. On the whole, are people's decisions to become terrorists rooted in a rational analysis of the
objective facts? (Pronin, Kennedy, and Butsch 2006).
2. Putting aside your views about terrorist violence and its victims, do terrorist organizations have
legitimate grievances?
3. Is the use of terrorism by organizations with political goals based on a reasoned assessment of
the costs and benefits involved?
4. How often is the use of terrorist violence effective in achieving strategic goals? and
5. Are terrorists rational?

Counterterrorism policy preferences are measured with a slightly altered version of a question
from Pronin, Kennedy, and Butsch (2006): How often would it be more effective for opposing
forces to negotiate with terrorists, rather than to use military might against them? (never=0,
always=6).

Perceived personal threat is measured by the following question, recorded on a scale of 010:
How personally threatened do you feel by terrorism? Studies focused specifically on threat
effects typically include a battery of questions to investigate the nuanced effects of different
aspects of threat perception, but this is precluded by scope limitations and so should be
considered within the context of more comprehensive research on perceptions of terrorist threat.

Treatment Conditions

The text control (see Appendix 1 for all survey text prompts) description of a terrorist attack
serves as a control indicating the effect that reading about a terrorist attack has on the public in
the absence of further commentary. This text is chosen because it describes an actual event that
happened long enough ago (August 19, 2003), far enough away (Jerusalem), and was of a small
enough scale (bus bombing) that it is not likely to trigger a recollection of the event in Australian
respondents. However, this event occurred at an important enough time in Australian politics that
it elicited a substantial response from then-Prime Minister Howard in the immediate aftermath
(politics) and was perpetrated by an organization (Hamas) that has been the focus of substantial
academic scholarship (academic).

The text control is also included at the beginning of the politics and academictreatments. In these
treatments, it provides context to the subsequent discursive/academic text. The context of the
attack in this text allows for nuanced explication of the strategic logic of terrorism in the
countervailing frame treatment (academic), but is sufficiently lacking in detail for the dominant
frame treatment (politics) to coherently emphasize the irrationality of terrorist violence, as
actually occurred. The focus on Hamas, an organization with clear political goals, provides a
firm foundation for analysis of perceptions of terrorist rationality. However, this choice also
limits the immediate generalizability of these findings to traditional terrorist organizations.
Specifically, my findings are not immediately applicable to what Abrahms has termed loon
wolves (Tweed and Atlas 2014), whose nebulous affiliation with groups such as the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) poses significant problems for categorizing rational behavior
at the organizational level.

The politics treatment is compiled from four of former Prime Minister Howard's formal public
speeches and statements in federal parliament (Howard 2002b; Howard 2002c; Howard
2003d; Howard 2003e), with the core of the treatment coming from a speech that he gave in
Parliament on August 20, 2003, the day after the attack described in the text control introductory
text. This treatment reflects some of Howard's most commonly deployed tropes across all his
communications about terrorism, particularly that terrorists are motivated by blind hatred and
that Australia is a target because of who we are and explicitly not because of what we have
done (Wynter 2015).

The academic treatment is compiled from four influential academic journal articles written
by Pape (2003), Kydd and Walter (2002, 2006), and Hoffman (2002), as well as two articles
from Foreign Policy magazine written by Sprinzak (2000, 2001). This treatment emphasizes,
among other things, that the distribution of terrorist attacks is nonrandom and that Hamas has
employed terrorist violence at strategically important times. These excerpts are chosen partly
because of their influence in the wider terrorism literature, partly because of their relevance to
the event described in the text control, and partly because they represent indirect, objective
language a substantial literature that takes many of its core elements for granted as the basis of
more complex analyses. Lastly, this experiment includes a control group that received no text at
all, serving as the untreated baseline against each of the three treated groups measured.

Results

As expected, perceptions of terrorist rationality are very low across the entire sample
(mean=1.48, standard deviation=0.98). Further, they correlate significantly with preferences
for nonmilitary counterterrorism policies (Figure 2; r=0.37, p<0.01). On the other hand,
threatwhich has been a much more substantial focus of the existing literatureis not
associated with counterterrorism policy preferences (Figure 2; r=0.025, p=0.48),
underscoring the importance of including measures of perceptions of the nature rather than
simply the extent of the threat in research on affective responses to terrorism and
counterterrorism policy preferences. There is a clear logic to this outcome; an irrational terrorist
who hates one's country or people for inexplicable reasons and a rational terrorist who seeks to
coerce a target into changing a specific policy can both be terrifying, but the mechanisms by
which one might seek to effectively alleviate these threats are likely to be different.

Figure 2.

View largeDownload slide

Perceptions of terrorist rationality and threat as predictors of preferences for nonmilitary counterterrorism policies

How often would it be more effective for opposing forces to negotiate with terrorists, rather than to use military
*

might against them? (never=0; always=6)

**
How personally threatened do you feel by terrorism? (010); r= 0.025, p=0.48

***
Mean of five-item rationality scale (never=0; always=6); r=0.37, p<0.01

The academic treatment results in a significant increase (23 percent) in perceptions of terrorist
rationality against the control group: F(1, 398)=11.06, p<0.01. Exposure to this treatment also
yields higher perceptions of terrorist rationality compared to the text control groupF(1,
402)=8.27, p<0.01and the politics treatment groupF(1, 399)=20.95, p<0.01 (Figure 3).
Notably, the politics treatment fails to significantly reduce perceptions of terrorist rationality.
This result may appear surprising given the strong rhetorical language used in the treatment, but
it is consistent with the idea that such framing constitutes the status quo in Australian terrorism
discourse. Indeed, this suggests that respondents have been conditioned to view such framing as
standard. It follows that respondents in the academic treatment have substantially internalized
this rhetoric, supported by the baseline of very low perceptions of terrorist rationality across the
entire sample. This emphasizes the significance of the counterframing effect achieved by
the academictreatment, especially given the substantial experimental literature demonstrating
that many if not most individuals resist communications incongruent with their prior thinking
(Entman 2010, 392).

Figure 3.
View largeDownload slide

Perceptions of terrorist rationality by treatment group

Mean of five-item rationality scale (06)


*

An alternative, though likely interrelated, explanation for the low perceptions of terrorist
rationality across the sample is Abrahms's (2013, 667) abovementioned correspondence of
means and ends bias hypothesis, which holds that publics of target countries are in fact prone to
inferring the extremeness of challengers preferences directly from their tactics, empowering
anti-accommodation hardliners in the face of terrorism. Notably, while the text
control description of the terrorist attack appears to have had no impact on perceptions of
terrorist rationality, this group is significantly less supportive of nonmilitary counterterrorism
policies than the control group (Table 1). Measuring average treatment effects against the
baseline effect from the text control, the politics treatment has no significant effect on
respondents counterterrorism policy preferences. However, respondents in
the academictreatment group are significantly more supportive of nonmilitary counterterrorism
policies: F(1, 401)=4.51, p<0.05 (Table 1), with the text control effect almost entirely nullified.

Table 1.
ANCOVA pairwise comparisons for treatment effects on counterterrorism policy
preferences

Pairwise Mean Standard p-


Treatment comparisons difference error Value

Text Control
(M=1.72) Politics 0.041 0.141 0.77

Academic 0.292* 0.142 0.04

Control 0.377** 0.142 0.01

Politics
(M=1.76) Academic 0.251 0.142 0.08
Pairwise Mean Standard p-
Treatment comparisons difference error Value

Text Control 0.041 0.141 0.77

Control 0.336* 0.142 0.02

Academic
(M=2.01) Politics 0.251 0.142 0.08

Text Control 0.292* 0.142 0.04

Control 0.085 0.142 0.55

Control
(M=2.09) Politics 0.336* 0.142 0.02

Academic 0.085 0.142 0.55

Text Control 0.377** 0.142 0.01

How often would it be more effective for opposing forces to negotiate with terrorists,
rather than to use military might against them? (never=0; always=6).
Covariates: What is your gender?
p<0.05; **p<0.01.
*

View Large

In sum, this experiment yields the following five key findings: (1) baseline perceptions of
terrorist rationality are extremely low; (2) perceptions of terrorist rationality can be increased
through exposure to content from the academic literature on terrorism; (3) perceptions of terrorist
rationality are significantly correlated with support for nonmilitary counterterrorism policies; (4)
exposure to descriptions of terrorist attacks can increase support for militaristic counterterrorism
policies; and (5) exposure to content from the academic literature following descriptions of
terrorist attacks can significantly mitigate this effect. Taken together, these findings have a
number of important implications for the study of terrorism, counterterrorism, and international
relations.
Most significantly, these results highlight a clear mechanism for counterframing in the event of
public demands for military responses to terrorist violence. The capacity to combat terrorists
attempts to manipulate publics into demanding responses to provocative attacks is fundamental
to exploiting what Fromkin (1975, 697) describes as the ultimate weakness of terrorism as a
strategy, that [y]ou can always refuse to do what they want you to do. However strong the
influence of the Correspondence of Means and Ends bias may be, these data indicate that
engaging the public with the academic literature is a viable means of mitigating the tendency of
target publics to react in precisely the way that terrorists expect, and often explicitly seek to
provoke.

Limitations and Future Directions

While exposure to descriptive texts about terrorist attacks cannot entirely emulate the affective
conditions of an actual terrorist attack, such external validity concerns are substantially mitigated
by the fact that, for the majority of people in the target audience, exposure to terrorist violence
occurs in remediated forms in actuality. If perceptions of terrorist rationality are conditioned by
elite rhetoric, different discursive contexts will produce differential perceptions of terrorist
rationality. However, although these findings provide insights specific to the Australian context,
they can be reasonably extrapolated out to similar international publics.

The most significant limitation of this study is its single-iteration design. The effects of repeated
exposure to a single frame or counterframe and the interaction of exposure to multiple frames
and counterframes at varying intervals and degrees of intensity will be centrally important
aspects of future research in this area (Chong and Druckman 2013). Given the dearth of research
on both counterframing and the role of perceptions of the nature of terrorism in counterterrorism
policy preferences, future research implementing multiexposure treatments with follow-up
protocols to test the longevity of effects as well as staggered measurement across groups of
perceptions of terrorist rationality, fear, anxiety, anger, and threat will be instructive.

Measuring perceptions of terrorist rationality before a fear-inducing treatment, for instance,


could provide important information about the amount of fear recruited under different
perceptual preconditions as well as the amount of changes to perceptions of terrorist rationality
given a fear stimulus. Such a research design would also provide insight into the interaction
effects of fear and perceived terrorist rationality on counterterrorism policy preferences. If the
directionality of the effects of fear on counterterrorism policy preferences is, as I suspect,
mediated by perceptions of terrorist rationality, our understanding of the factors influencing
counterterrorism policy preferences in the public, and hence counterterrorism policies, will be
greatly enhanced. There is much to be done in this sphere, but given the outsize role of terrorist
violence in modern international relations, it is imperative that we better understand the
dynamics of foreign policy responses to terrorist violence.

1
For example, in the opening paragraph participants were given the same text except
for the final sentence, in which the rational treatment group read that [s]uicide
terrorists often make their decisions after a thorough, rational analysis of their
circumstances, whereas the irrational treatment group read that [s]uicide terrorists
are most often motivated by strictly held ideology and deeply felt anger (Pronin,
Kennedy, and Butsch 2006, 38889).
2
To ensure that the distribution of pretreatment covariates is not unbalanced between
the treatment groups, I estimate a multinomial logistic regression on the treatments
against the control, including respondents gender, age, country of birth, parents
country of birth, education, income, interest in politics, left-right identification, and
hawk-dove identification as covariates, as indicated in Appendix 2, Table 1A. Two of
the thirty covariates achieve statistical significance at the 95 percent levelabout the
same probability as random chance. These are controlled for in the analysis where
they affect the substantive findings (Table 1). In addition, Appendix 2, Table
2A shows the estimation of a linear regression on perceptions of terrorist rationality
with the treatment groups and the significant covariates, finding no important effects
on the results.

Acknowledgments

I am especially grateful to Benjamin Goldsmith for his guidance through every stage of the
article's development. I also thank Frank Smith III, Justin Hastings, Christopher Neff, and Luke
Mansillo, as well as the editors and reviewers of the Journal of Global Security Studies for their
valuable comments and critiques. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Second
Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Quantitative Political Science, Sydney.

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Appendix 1. Survey Prompts


Text Control

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Politics Treatment

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Academic Treatment

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Appendix 2. Survey Balance Statistical Analysis


Table 1A.
Multinomial logistic regression on pretreatment covariates

Text Control Politics Academic

Gender 0.354 0.413* 0.129

(0.208) (0.209) (0.208)

Age 0.009 0.009 0.003

(0.007) (0.007) (0.007)

Born in Australia 0.298 0.503 0.250

(0.360) (0.361) (0.369)

Mother Born in Australia 0.688* 0.452 0.363

(0.334) (0.335) (0.341)

Father Born in Australia 0.256 0.160 0.175


Text Control Politics Academic

(0.300) (0.292) (0.299)

Education 0.004 0.002 0.000

(0.029) (0.029) (0.028)

Income 0.038 0.026 0.025

(0.020) (0.020) (0.020)

Interest in Politics 0.072 0.061 0.116

(0.125) (0.127) (0.125)

Left-Right Identification 0.018 0.026 0.062

(0.050) (0.050) (0.051)

Hawk-Dove Identification 0.022 0.041 0.044

(0.042) (0.043) (0.043)

Statistical significance: *p<0.05; **p<0.01.


Standard errors are in parentheses.
View Large
Table 2A.
Linear regression on perceptions of terrorist rationality scale and significant covariates

Standard p-
B Error Beta t Value

Text Control 0.034 0.097 0.015 0.354 0.724

Politics 0.113 0.097 0.050 1.158 0.247


Standard p-
B Error Beta t Value

Academic 0.329 0.097 0.146 3.395 0.001

Mother Born in
Australia 0.021 0.072 0.010 0.296 0.767

Male 0.014 0.069 0.007 0.202 0.840

View Large
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