Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 607–625

Al Qaeda Versus Big Brother: Anxiety About Government Monitoring and Support for Domestic Counterterrorism Policies


  • Samuel J. Best
    • Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Connecticut
    • Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Rhode Island
  • Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz
    • Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Rhode Island
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11109-011-9177-6

Cite this article as:
Best, S.J., Krueger, B.S. & Pearson-Merkowitz, S. Polit Behav (2012) 34: 607. doi:10.1007/s11109-011-9177-6


Explanatory models of attitudes toward U.S. domestic counterterrorism policy routinely incorporate individual concern over terrorism, but uniformly disregard concern about the government’s use of domestic surveillance. Indeed, one of the most prominent works of this kind explicitly argues that ordinary Americans will not perceive that government monitoring targets people like themselves and thus domestic surveillance programs will not generate anxiety. We question this assumption on theoretical and historical grounds. Our research uses a unique probability sample survey to demonstrate that significant portions of ordinary Americans feel anxious about domestic government monitoring. Moreover, the results show that anxiety about government monitoring negatively relates to attitudes toward domestic counterterrorism policies. Although never included in previous models, and even plainly dismissed as irrelevant, felt anxiety about government monitoring importantly predicts attitudes about domestic counterterrorism policies.


AnxietyDomestic counter-terrorism policiesGovernment monitoringAttitudes about terrorismPublic opinion

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011