Risk Perception, Threat, and Anxiety Decay in Lone-Wolf Terrorist Events in the US Grant uri icon


  • This project studies risk perceptions among the American public regarding domestic terrorism, with a particular focus on so-called "lone-wolf" terrorist attacks. The study surveys a nationally representative sample of U.S. residents, then re-surveys them at a later time. This enables the investigators to study risk perceptions relating to domestic terrorism and, particularly, how those risk perceptions increase or decrease over time. The survey measures a number of characteristics associated with perceptions of various types of terrorism attacks, including so-called lone-wolf attacks. The second survey will measure the same characteristics approximately six months after the first survey. The combined data from the two surveys will contribute to a better understanding of the correlates of risk perceptions of terrorist events and how and why those perceptions change over time. Better understanding of the specific and potentially unique risk and threat perceptions associated with lone-wolf terrorist attacks has implications for public policy and institutional responses. More specifically, the project will employ a two-wave panel survey of risk perceptions relating to domestic terrorism among a nationally representative sample of U.S. residents. This two-wave design will enable the investigators to test theoretically and practically important hypotheses about the dynamics of perceptions of risk in lone-wolf attacks, how these perceptions change over a 6-month period of time, including the character of perceived risk "decay" and "social amplification," and how these changes compare with risk perceptions of other kinds of threat. The investigators hope to get the first wave into the field in as close time proximity as possible to the focusing events of 2015 in San Bernardino (December 2), Colorado Springs (November 17), Paris (November 13), Chattanooga (July 16), and Charleston (June 17). Wave 1 of the survey measures perceptions of various types of terrorism attacks, including an effort to identify which of a number of events respondents consider to be lone-wolf attacks. The questionnaire will be administered over the internet to a nationally representative sample. The wave 1 sample will consist of approximately 1,700 respondents. The wave 2 survey will consist of re-interviews of an estimated 1,200 of these 1,700 respondents 6 months after the initial interviews The difference in number of respondents is due to expected attrition.

date/time interval

  • 2016 - 2018