Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Peter Liberman

Subject Categories

American Politics | International Relations


Terrorism, Framing, Public Opinion, Reagan, Iraq War


Public Opinion matters on issues of foreign policy. This makes controlling public opinion very important for governments. In this paper I will argue that elites use terrorism both as a tool for instilling fear and by creating a certain image of groups they wish to support or destroy in order to shape public opinion. I will examine both literature on framing and public opinion data on foreign policy to show why public opinion is so important and how it can be shaped. The two case studies showing terrorism being used in these ways will be the Ronald Reagan administration’s policy making in El Salvador and Nicaragua and the Bush administrations initiatives to start the war on terror and the Iraq War. These two examples will show how and why terrorism can be such an important tool for shaping public opinion to support new foreign policy initiatives.