Correspondence between images of terrorists and preferred approaches to counterterrorism: The moderating role of ideological orientations

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Golec de Zavala, Agnieszka ; Kossowska, Malgorzata

Two studies conducted in two different countries examined the moderating effects of authoritarianism and social dominance orientation on the relationship between terrorist images (soldiers vs criminals) and preference for counterterrorist actions (military aggression vs justice system prosecution). The correlational study shows that the perception of Al-Qaeda terrorists as soldiers is related to preference for aggressive counterterrorism, especially among people high in social dominance orientation. The relationship between the perception of Al-Qaeda terrorists as criminals and preference for the criminal justice system actions is strengthened among authoritarians. The experimental study corroborated these findings. When Al-Qaeda terrorists were framed as soldiers, people high in social dominance orientation supported aggressive counterterrorism. When the terrorists were portrayed as criminals, they opposed military aggression and criminal prosecution. When the terrorists were framed as criminals, only authoritarians supported criminal prosecution as an effective counterterrorism measure. Together the findings suggest that different terrorist images (chronic perceptions or experimentally framed) are related to preference for counterterrorism that corresponds with the content of the images and individuals’ chronic ideological orientations. People high in social dominance orientation want to fight terrorist soldiers. Authoritarians prefer to prosecute terrorist criminals.
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