Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Anthony Lemieux

Abstract

When is an attack perceived as terrorism? Anecdotally, violent events in the media are more often labeled terrorism when the perpetrator is Muslim. The media has profound effects on the public’s perception of issues such as terrorism. However, public views on labeling terrorism have not been tested empirically. This research aims to explore how the public perceives a violent event depending on the context. Using a 2 (Muslim vs. Christian perpetrator) x2 (male vs. female perpetrator) x2 (unknown vs. political motive) experimental design, participants were presented with varying conditions of an attack. They were asked to report their perceptions of the attack and perpetrator, as well as their attitudes towards different policies. Findings show that attacks with Muslim perpetrators were more likely to be labeled terrorism, and the terrorism label is correlated with support for policies negatively affecting Muslims.

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