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Modeling public responses to soft-target transportation terror

Abstract

Transportation systems are one of the most frequent and high-profile targets for terrorist attacks, and such attacks can cause reduced or altered public travel behavior that can have severe economic consequences. Thus, understanding the relationship between transportation terror and public response is critical. We recruited n = 430 participants to read one of three hypothetical transportation-based terror attacks, and use Partial Least Squares path modeling to identify the interrelationships between the affective, cognitive, and (intended) behavioral facets of their reactions. The three terror scenarios were structured to allow for comparisons between a cyber and non-cyber attack on ground transportation, and an aviation versus ground explosives attack, which allowed us to test the robustness of the path model across situational features. Results indicated that the attack features did not moderate any of the interrelationships between reaction variables, but had medium-sized effects on self-reported risk perception. Collapsing data from all three scenarios into a single path model confirmed previously reported findings regarding the opposing roles of fear and anger in risk perception, suggested differing roles for terrorism risk attitudes and general risk attitudes, and found a surprisingly negligible role for self-reported trust in government. Implications for further research on soft-target and transportation-based terrorism risk perception are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) under task order Number HSTS02-11-P-TSI052 under the US Department of Homeland Security’s basic ordering agreement HSHQDC-10-A-BOA19 through the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events. We wish to thank Tom Reilly for his support throughout this research project. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of the TSA. Furthermore, we acknowledge support from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) under award Number 2010-ST-061-RE0001. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the views or official policies, either expressed or implied, of the US Department of Homeland Security. We would also like to acknowledge Marcus Mayorga for managing the Decision Research participant panel for this study, as well as compiling the stimuli and survey materials in Qualtrics.

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Correspondence to Matt Baucum.

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Baucum, M., Rosoff, H., John, R. et al. Modeling public responses to soft-target transportation terror. Environ Syst Decis 38, 239–249 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-018-9676-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-018-9676-7

Keywords

  • Terrorism
  • Transportation
  • Risk
  • Decision making
  • Disasters
  • Fear
  • Violence