Negative public opinion about foreign countries an early warning signal for terrorism

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Washington, September 18 (ANI): People's negative views toward the leadership and policies of other countries may be an indication that a terrorist act may be carried out, say researchers.

Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist, and Jitka Maleckova, of Charles University in the Czech Republic, came to this conclusion after analysing public opinion polls and terrorist activity in 143 pairs of countries.

Writing about their findings in the journal Science, the researchers say that there is a strong relationship between attitudes expressed toward a foreign country -- indicated in surveys on foreign leaders' performance-and the occurrence of terrorism against that country.

"Public opinion appears to be a useful predictor of terrorist activity," said Krueger, the Bendheim Professor in Economics and Public Policy.

"This is the first study to relate public opinion across countries to concrete actions such as terrorism," he added.

He pointed out that the notion that public attitudes can contribute to terrorism has been inadequately explored to date.

According to him, the study's findings attain significance as they suggest that public opinion may provide a valuable early warning signal of terrorism, and help researchers better understand the causes of terrorism.

The researchers carried out their study by mining public opinion polls of residents in 19 countries in the Middle East and northern Africa conducted by Gallup.

They asked the respondents whether they approved of the job performance of the leaders of nine large countries.

According to the researchers, the countries selected for the study are world powers in terms of size, population or military strength, are the United States, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The opinions, both positive and negative, were linked to the number of terrorist attacks conducted against the nine world powers by people from the 19 countries between 2004 and 2008. The terror attacks were compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center.

Based on the findings, Krueger says that there is not a direct connection between poverty and terrorism, contrary to a popular view.

He adds that economic status has more to do with target countries than it does with the states where the attacks originate.

He says that countries with advanced economies as well as a high degree of civil liberties are most likely to be the targets of terrorism.

The researchers admits that the study does not explain whether terrorists act in response to public opinion or whether they are simply reacting just like the larger public to external events.

However, he insists that, in either case, public opinion surveys can provide a powerful indication of the likelihood of terrorist activity.

Krueger believes that greater disapproval of another country's leaders or policies may result in more terrorist acts because it increases the number of people who provide material support and encouragement for terrorism, and increases the number of people interested in joining cells and carrying out terrorist acts themselves. (ANI)

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