Scandinavian Working Papers in Business Administration

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2002:11: The Perceived Risk of Terrorism

Lennart Sjöberg ()
Additional contact information
Lennart Sjöberg: Center for Risk Research, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The perceived risk of terrorism was studied in a group of Swedish respondents. The over-all level of perceived risk of terrorism was low in this group. Risk to others from terrorism was rated as higher than personal risk, suggesting a relatively high level of perceived possibility of protecting oneself against the hazard. Women gave higher risk ratings than men, as did older respondents and respondents with a low level of education. However, demographics accounted for only about five per cent of the variance in perceived risk. The psychometric model’s dimensions of “dread” and “new risk” were also measured. New risk had no correlation with perceived risk, but dread did. Other factors contributed considerably more, however. In particular, reasons for terrorism in terms of global criminality and also perceived selfishness and greed among perpetrators were important, as was a tendency towards suspicious thought patterns. Belief in the competence of the perpetrators had a positive correlation with perceived risk, but a stronger effect could be discerned from seeing the perpetrators as confused and misinformed about the modern world. The perceived risk of terrorism correlated strongly with items measuring the generalisation of the hazard over space and time. Implications for models of risk perception are discussed.

Keywords: Risk perception; terrorism

22 pages, First version: August 15, 2002. Revised: January 16, 2004. Earlier revisions: January 16, 2003.


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