Other People’s Terrorism: Ideology and the Perceived Legitimacy of Political Violence
By Julie M. Norman, University College London
When do Americans view political violence as legitimate? In this article, I use experimental methods to examine public perceptions of domestic political violence perpetrated to advance right-wing or left-wing agendas. Specifically, I examine the extent to which the alignment of political ideology (conservative/liberal) with a political cause influences perceptions of legitimacy for objectively equivalent acts of violence. Controlling for variables such as perpetrator identity, I demonstrate that political ideology influences both how members of the public perceive the morality of political violence and the extent to which they view an act as constituting terrorism, even when the severity of violence and type of target are identical. The findings have implications for policy makers and practitioners in designating acts as terrorism and developing policies to prevent or counter political violence.