Date of Graduation

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Sociology and Criminology

Advisor

Jeff Gruenewald

Committee Member

Christopher A. Shields

Second Committee Member

Grant Drawve

Keywords

Situational Crime Prevention, Target selection, Terrorism

Abstract

The purpose of the current study is to examine how ideology and situational factors shape terrorist target selection in the United States. While a growing number of studies have examined target selection by terrorists, the current study is the first to consider how combinations of factors present situated opportunities for terrorists to select particular types of targets as opposed to others. Guided by the situational crime prevention approach, this study relies on data from the American Terrorism Study (ATS) to measure attributes of incidents perpetrated by far-right and Islamic extremists and target selection. The outcomes of interest include government versus citizenry targets and human versus non-human targets. Bivariate and multivariate statistical tests are used to examine how ideology and situational factors statistically predict target selection. In addition, conjunctive analysis of case configurations (CACC) is used to examine how configurations of key factors are more or less associated with the selection of particular target types. Findings indicate that ideology and weapon type were two of the most significant factors associated with target selection by terrorists. The results of the CACC also revealed that some configurations of ideological and situational factors resulted in increased or decreased chances that terrorists would select one type of target over another, highlighting the interconnectedness of factors shaping target selection. This study concludes with implications for terrorism prevention and suggestions for future research.

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