Identifying a violent event as an act of terrorism is often difficult when the perpetrator and their motives are unclear. This paper argues that one way the public solves this classification dilemma is through the interaction between claims of responsibility for the violence and the tactics of the violence involved. Utilizing a two-by-two factorial survey experiment, I show that the public is more likely to label a violent event as terrorism when the event has an associated claim of responsibility and when the type of violence is clearly associated with terrorist activity. The results suggest people are more likely to confidently label a violent event as intentional or terroristic in nature when exposed to the interaction between claims of responsibility and tactics involved. This experiment shows that claims serve to identify who committed a violent event and why to audiences, but also clarifies ambiguous violence to be terroristic in nature.
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Thesis advisor: M., Hoffman, Aaron
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