Co-PIs:  Lori Poloni-Staudinger, PhD (Northern Arizona University), Candice Ortbals, PhD (Pepperdine University), Tracy Osborn, PhD (University of Iowa), Jeanette Mendez, PhD (Oklahoma State University)working in conjunction with Tijen Pegg (Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis) and researchers in Spain, Turkey and the United States.

How do citizens emotionally react to media portrayals of terrorists and how does this in turn influence policy preferences? Do these reactions vary by the sex of the respondent and/or the sex of the terrorist? Does the type of media matter in eliciting reactions? Are reactions universal or do they vary with national context? This project asks whether and why the violent actions of women terrorists in particular evoke anger, fear, anxiety, and/or sadness in women and men respondents in the United States, Turkey and Spain and how this in turn influences policy preferences. Commonly held beliefs among researchers, policymakers, and terrorist organizations are that the use of women operatives elicits more fear in the target population. Using a survey experiment, we asked respondents to react to news stories about authorities thwarting a suicide terrorist attack, conducted by a perpetrator identified as either a man, a woman, a father, or a mother. Research conducted by the American PIs in the US shows that while women respondents react more emotionally to terrorist newsprint scenarios, the sex and gender representations of the terrorists do not produce consistent results related to emotional reactions or policy preferences of respondents. This suggests that a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between public opinion, sex, gender and terrorism is needed in the literature and in policy circles. The US study suggested that women do not prefer more peaceful policy responses to terrorism, in fact preferring military intervention at rates equal to or greater than men. This finding is counter commonly held academic and policy beliefs. The US study shows the way in which terrorism elicits fear can then be manipulated to produce stronger support for military intervention as a policy response to terrorism. The expanded study investigates this issue cross nationally, and also looks at reactions to professionally produced television newscasts in addition to print stories to determine the degree to which the medium of representation influences emotional reactions and policy preferences related to terrorism among publics in the US, Spain and Turkey. 


Dr. Jeanette Mendez (PhD Indiana University 2003) is Interim Associate Dean art Oklahoma State University. She served as Department of Head of Political Science from 2011-2014. Mendez’s research focuses primarily on political information processing, political behavior and political communication.  Her recent work includes studying gendered patterns in discussion networks, the effects of facial appearance on perceptions of maturity, competence and vote choice, and the effects of gender on representation when legislative seats change hands.  Her new book project explores campaign dynamics and outcomes when women are candidates.  Her work has been published in journals including Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, Political Psychology, Politics and Gender, Journal of Women, Politics and Policy, PS: Political Science and Politics, Journal of Media Psychology, and Journal of Political Science.  Mendez is currently the co-editor of Political Research Quarterly.

Dr. Candice D. Ortbals (PhD Indiana University 2004) is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Social Science Division at Pepperdine University.  She researches gender and politics, focusing on social movements, state feminism, terrorism, and memory.  Her work largely examines politics in Spain.  She is the author, with Lori Poloni-Staudinger, of Terrorism and Violent Conflict:  Women’s Agency, Leadership and Responses (2012, Springer Press). She has also published in Politics & Gender, International Studies Quarterly, and Critical Terrorism Studies.  Her email address is cortbals@pepperdine.edu. 

Dr. Tracy Osborn (PhD Indiana University 2004) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at University of Iowa.  Her research focuses on women and politics in U.S. state legislatures, Congress, and political behavior.  Her recent book, How Women Represent Women: Political Parties, Gender, and Representation in the State Legislatures (Oxford University Press, 2012) examines how Democratic and Republican women represent women's issues under different legislative conditions.  She has also published articles in Political Research Quarterly, American Politics Research, Politics & Gender, and other journals.  She was named a Dean's Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa in 2012.

Dr. Lori M. Poloni-Staudinger (PhD Indiana University 2005) is an Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University.   Her research in general focuses on social movements and political participation, political contention and extra-institutional (violent) participation, and political institutions.  Her recent work examines questions around terrorism, particularly women and terrorism.  She has published many journal articles and a book on the topic.  She is also an expert on European politics.  Dr. Poloni-Staudinger was a Distinguished Fulbright Fellow at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria in 2010 and has served as a consultant for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.  She also taught at University of the Basque Country in San Sebastian, Spain and has traveled extensively and lived in many parts of Europe and the United States. Her email is Lori.Poloni-Staudinger@nau.edu.


Ortbals and Poloni-Staudinger are experts on issues related to terrorism and gender and terrorism in the Basque region of Spain and France.  Current work examines women and memory as related to ETA terrorism.  We have conducted primary research and interviews in the region.  Publications related to this research can be found below.

Women Policymakers Framing their Leadership and Lives in Relation to Terrorism: The Basque Case, Forthcoming Women, Politics and Policy

Women Defining Terrorism: Ethnonationalist, State, and Intimate Terrorism. 2014. Critical Terrorism Studies 7(3):  336-356. 

Dangerous Fieldwork? Researching Terrorism and Negotiating Human Subjects and Interpersonal Relations. 2014.  Sage Cases in Methodology.