Terrorism Risk Assessment, Recollection Bias, and Public Support for Counterterrorism Policy and Spending. Academic Article uri icon


  • Recollection bias (RB) refers to the phenomenon whereby after an adverse event people report that their risk assessment about a similar future event is presently no higher than their recollection of their pre-event risk assessment. While previous research has outlined this theoretical construct and generated important empirical findings, there were some limitations. We design and employ a new national representative survey to address these limitations in this study. We examine the existence and persistence of RB among the general public in the context of a number of domestic and international terrorist attacks. We further examine the socioeconomic and political base of RB and the influences of RB on a wide range of citizens' counterterrorism policy preferences. Our data analyses reveal strong evidence showing the occurrence of RB and its persistence across various forms of terrorism risk. With regard to the socioeconomic and political base, we find that females, older people, political conservatives, and Republicans are less likely to be subject to RB. For the effects of RB on public counterterrorism policy preferences, our analyses demonstrate that this bias significantly dampens public support for a wide range of preventive policy measures and government anti-terrorism spending. Overall, our study, based on a national representative sample and an extended survey design, provides robust evidence of RB in terrorism risk assessment, and adds further evidence to support the idea that RB is likely a generalizable phenomenon. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed in the conclusion.

published proceedings

  • Risk Anal

altmetric score

  • 87.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, X., Portney, K. E., Mumpower, J. L., & Vedlitz, A.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Xinsheng||Portney, Kent E||Mumpower, Jeryl L||Vedlitz, Arnold

publication date

  • March 2019