When to Take Credit for Terrorism? A Cross-National Examination of Claims and Attributions

Rationalist research expects that groups claim credit for terrorism. Yet, the vast majority of attacks are not claimed. Of the unclaimed attacks, about half are attributed to a specific group. What factors impact claiming decisions? While extant literature largely treats claiming as binary—either cl...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Terrorism and political violence
Main Author: Kearns, Erin M.
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2021
In:Terrorism and political violence
Year: 2021, Volume: 33, Issue: 1, Pages: 164-193
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Rationalist research expects that groups claim credit for terrorism. Yet, the vast majority of attacks are not claimed. Of the unclaimed attacks, about half are attributed to a specific group. What factors impact claiming decisions? While extant literature largely treats claiming as binary—either claimed or not—the present study disaggregates claiming decisions further to also consider attacks with attributions of credit but no claim, using data from 160 countries between 1998 and 2016. Both attack-level and situational factors impact claiming decisions. Disaggregating claiming behavior shows meaningful differences. Specifically, competitive environments and suicide attacks increase claims but not attributions. Higher fatalities in general increase both claims and attributions, but when the target is civilian attributions decrease with a high body count whereas claims increase. Further, while the directional impact of other variables is the same, the magnitude of their effects vary between claims and attributions. Results are robust across modeling specifications. Findings demonstrate that our understanding of claiming behaviors is limited when claiming is treated as dichotomous. This study provides further insight into factors that impact claiming decisions for terrorism. Results can address data issues in academic research and inform counterterrorism responses.
ISSN:1556-1836
DOI:10.1080/09546553.2018.1540982