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Title Public Fears of Terrorism, Partisan Rhetoric, and the Foundations of American Interventionism
Post date 04/30/2019
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale This study examines how perceptions of the danger posed by terrorist attacks can be lowered to a more accurate level among the American population. An American’s yearly chance of being killed by a terrorist attack sits at about 1 in 3.5 million. Yet over 40% of the public have been consistently found to believe they or a family member are likely or very likely to be the victim of a terror attack. Can these heightened estimates of the risks posed by terrorism be brought closer to reality? With trillions of dollars spent on the War on Terror since 9/11, this question is not just theoretically important – both for research on terrorism and U.S. foreign policy as well as on the correction of false beliefs – but also practically important as well.
C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested? We explore whether corrective information about the actual risks of terrorism facing Americans will reduce misperceptions. Our core hypothesis is that the efficacy of this “corrective message” will depend on accompanying endorsements of this new information by political elites. We test the impact of the endorser’s (1) partisan identity, (2) deviation from expected positions, and (3) issue-specific expertise on the efficacy of the corrective information.
C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? * With support from Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) and their partner NORC at the University of Chicago, we will field a nationally representative survey experiment that includes a brief vignette with corrective information about the actual risks of terrorism vs. other threats facing Americans such as cancer, car accidents, and homicide. Our study employs a fully randomized design with four treatment groups and one control group. The control group only receives a vignette that captures the general perception of terrorism as threatening. The treatment groups each read the control vignette and then are provided a corrective vignette with information on the risk posed by terrorism relative to other everyday threats. The first treatment group’s vignette only includes these risk statistics. The remaining three treatment group vignettes also include an endorsement of the risk statistics by one of three fictitious elite actors: a Democratic congressman, a Republican congressman, or a military general. This design allows us not only to (1) measure who is the most effective source for corrective information among realistic American elite messengers about the terror threat, but also to (2) test the impact of the different mechanisms for why such cues might effectively reinforce these corrections (see the Pre-Analysis Plan for our method of teasing out each mechanism). We will also field the same revised design simultaneously on MTurk in order to provide additional evidence and investigate the ability of MTurk to recover the results of experiments like ours as compared to high-quality, representative platforms.
C4 Country United States
C5 Scale (# of Units) 2,500 total (1,250 with TESS/NORC, 1,250 on MTurk)
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? Yes
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number OSU #2018B0235, CMU #2019_00000063
C9 Date of IRB Approval April 2, 2019 for CMU; April 22, 2019 for OSU
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers, NORC at the University of Chicago (for nationally representative probability sample, MTurk sample done by research team themselves)
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? Yes
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors