Cyber Terrorism and Public Support for Retaliation - A Multi-Country Survey Experiment

Ryan Shandler, Michael L. Gross, Sophia Backhaus, Daphna Canetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does exposure to cyber terrorism prompt calls for retaliatory military strikes? By what psychological mechanism does it do so? Through a series of controlled, randomized experiments, this study exposed respondents (n = 2,028) to television news reports depicting cyber and conventional terror attacks against critical infrastructures in the United States, United Kingdom and Israel. The findings indicate that only lethal cyber terrorism triggers strong support for retaliation. Findings also confirm that anger bridges exposure to cyber terrorism and retaliation, rather than psychological mechanisms such as threat perception or anxiety as other studies propose. These findings extend to the cyber realm a recent trend that views anger as a primary mechanism linking exposure to terrorism with militant preferences. With cyber terrorism a mounting international concern, this study demonstrates how exposure to this threat can generate strong public support for retaliatory policies, depending on the lethality of the attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-868
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • anger
  • critical infrastructure
  • cyber terrorism
  • foreign policy preferences
  • retaliatory strikes
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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