THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEGITIMACY, TERRORIST ATTACKS AND POLICE
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Scholars often suggest that terrorism - "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation" (LaFree & Dugan, 2007, 184) - is a battle of legitimacy. As the most ubiquitous representatives of the government's coercive force, the police should be most susceptible to terrorism stemming from perceptions of illegitimacy. Police are attractive symbolic and strategic targets, and they were victimized in over 12% of terrorist attacks worldwide since 1970. However, empirical research assessing the influence of legitimacy on terrorist attacks, generally, and scholarly attention to terrorist attacks on police are scant. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the influence of state and police legitimacy and alternative explanations on the proportion of all and only fatal terrorist attacks on police in 82 countries between 1999 and 2008. Data were drawn from several sources, including the Global Terrorism Database and the World Values Survey. Surprisingly, results of Tobit analyses indicate that police legitimacy, measured by the percentage of the population who have at least some confidence in police, is not significantly related to the proportion of all terrorist attacks on police or the proportion of fatal terrorist attacks on police. State legitimacy was measured by four indicators; only the percentage of the population who would never protest reached significance, lending limited support for this hypothesis. Greater societal schism, the presence of a foreign military and greater economic inequality were consistently significant predictors of higher proportions of terrorist attacks on police. Some measures of violence within a country also were influential, but they were not consistent across models or with expectations. The results of the Tobit analyses were confirmed with Negative Binomial Regression Models using the number of all and only fatal terrorist attacks targeting police as the outcome.
While these results suggest alternative explanations for terrorist attacks targeting police, discounting legitimacy as an explanation for such attacks or terrorism, generally, is premature. Policy implications and avenues for future research are discussed.