U.S. Beliefs about the Causes of Terrorism: An Application of Attribution Theory

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Abstract

This study examined what U.S. residents perceived to be the causes of terrorism and the influence of news media exposure on those beliefs. Examination was guided by Attribution Theory. Data were collected via a nationwide web survey administered in October 2017. Respondents were 444 U.S. adults who listed what they perceived as the causes of terrorism in response to an open-ended survey item. Respondents were more likely to make internal attributions for terrorism than external attributions. Religious beliefs were the most common internal attribution, followed by hatred and mental illness. Hispanics were substantially less likely to make internal attributions than either Whites or Blacks. Respondents with more frequent exposure to terrorism news from local television were less likely to make external attributions than those with less exposure through this medium. More frequent exposure to terrorism news on websites or apps was associated with increased likelihood of making external attributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-676
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Studies
Volume70
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication

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