Elvy, Dale Richard
Government policy in Australia and the United States has been fundamentally altered by the advent of modern terrorism. Billions of dollars have been spent on domestic counter-terrorism measures, new legislation has been introduced which challenges the balance between civil liberties and security, and foreign policy has shifted to the extent that these nations have taken military action at considerable expense, straining international diplomatic relations. This thesis explores how public opinion...[Show more] in these nations has changed over recent decades, and explores how the impact of recent high-visibility mass casualty terrorist attacks, exacerbated by the rapid spread and dissemination of terrorist messages by the media, has resulted in high levels of public anxiety which has increased public willingness to trade civil liberties for increased security, and influenced public confidence in the capability of government responses to terrorism - both of which are fundamental components of a strategy of terrorism. This thesis draws upon two surveys; the 2007 Australian Election Study, and a national survey of the United States conducted in 2002 by Stony Brook University to conduct a comparative analysis of public opinion toward terrorism to critically assess current policy responses to terrorism. It was found that in both nations there are a similar range of demographic variables, which predict levels of anxiety, satisfaction with Government responses to combat terrorism, and a willingness to trade civil liberties for increased security. It was also found that, even when controlling for these variables, anxiety and concern about terrorism continue to have a statistically significant relationship with government satisfaction and willingness to trade civil liberties for increased security. It was further found that the perceived threat of terrorism acts as a significant mediating variable on the relationship between anxiety, and willingness to trade civil liberties for increased security and satisfaction with government, supporting previous research which suggests that confidence in government is based to some extent, on citizens' feelings of security, and theories that there is a clear linkage between public expectations and support for increased government expenditure. There is also evidence to suggest that the mediating influence of the perceived threat of terrorism increases over time leading to the conclusion that both those who are pessimistic and optimistic about the threat of terrorism become more strongly polarised to their respective views. These findings suggest that successful Government policy must acknowledge the importance of public opinion in understanding the impact of terrorism. Policy should seek to reflect the unique and powerful influence of media frames, and as a response, policy makers should adopt strategies to combat the natural drawbacks of traditional counter-terrorism efforts in this arena. Policy makers must, therefore, seek to make counter-terrorism efforts more transparent and seek to de-sensationalise terrorism as part of a targeted media strategy which enables Government messages to have primacy in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack and undermines the key precepts of terrorist strategy. -- provided by Candidate.
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