Communicating through Violence: An Application of Rational Choice Theory to Terrorist Claims of Responsibility
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The present research applied rational choice theory to terrorists' decisions to formally claim responsibility for an attack. Logistic regression is applied to United States' incident characteristics, testing whether claim-making decreases over time and whether post-attack claims are less likely after incidents targeting specific entities. Variables being controlled for include the tactic used, whether the attack was successful, nationality of the target, and number of casualties. A sensitivity analysis of 100 randomly-selected cases examines measurement error in the dependent variable resulting from media attribution of group responsibility as opposed to formal claims from terrorists. Results indicate that striking a specific target does not decrease the likelihood that an attack will be formally claimed by a terrorist group. This research does provide evidence that influential factors in terrorist claim-making decisions change over time. Policy implications are discussed.