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Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
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Drs. Portney, Mumpower’s Research on Soft Target Terrorism Risk Perceptions Presented at PSAM

ISTPP Director Kent Portney and Reseach Fellow Jeryl Mumpower coauthored a paper titled “The Dynamics of Risk Perception for Soft Target Terrorism” that was presented at the 14th Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management Conference held in September in Los Angeles, CA.

ISTPP Director Kent Portney, Reseach Fellow Jeryl Mumpower, and their coauthors examine aspects of the public’s attitudes, risk perceptions, and behavioral responses to soft target terrorism events using original data from a six-wave longitudinal study conducted over a six-month period. Multiple high-profile terror events occurred during the six months, including the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and the truck attack in Nice, France. The survey asked respondents about their recollection of each violent incident and whether they considered these incidents to be acts of terror, along with questions about perceptions of risk; psychometric variables; and behavioral responses associated with soft target terror events, defined as attacks on unsecured public spaces using low-technology devices such as guns, motor vehicles, or homemade bombs. Over time, given highly publicized terror attacks, people’s perceptions of risk influence their estimates of future consequences and estimates of the likelihood of additional attacks. People who expressed higher levels of fear concerning potential terror attacks also reported changing their behaviors to reduce their chances of being the victim of a soft target attack. These behavior changes included buying a gun, changing travel destinations, and avoiding crowded places.

Baucum, Matt, Richard John, Marcus Mayorga, Paul Slovic, William Burns, Kent Portney, and Jeryl Mumpower. 2018. “The Dynamics of Risk Perception for Soft Target Terrorism.” Paper presented at the 14th Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management Conference, Los Angeles, CA, September 16–21.