Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 607-625

First online:

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

  • Samuel J. BestAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Connecticut
  • , Brian S. KruegerAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Rhode Island Email author 
  • , Shanna Pearson-MerkowitzAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Rhode Island

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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.


Anxiety Domestic counter-terrorism policies Government monitoring Attitudes about terrorism Public opinion