Perceiving Terrorism: A survey experiment about how Swedish students define terrorism based on the perpetrator’s ethnicity
The purpose of this study is to analyze how students perceive the concept of terrorism based on the ethnicity ascribed to the perpetrator. Studies conducted in the US have shown that the public defines political violence differently depending on the language used to describe the event, white perpetrators are more often called mass shooters while perpetrators of other ethnicities are more frequently called terrorists. At the same time, there is a lack of studies on that specific topic in Scandinavia and the aim of this study was to conduct a survey experiment to contribute to this field in a Swedish context. Respondents were reading a fictional scenario about a fatal shooting in Malmö, Sweden. Two groups (n=180) were participating in the experiment. The name of the perpetrator was deliberately changed to an Arabic name in the second group, compared to a Swedish name in the first group. Respondents were then asked to define the scenario and answer questions about the possible motive of the attack. The main result shows that the students were not more eager to define the event as a terror attack with the Arabic-named perpetrator. This could be explained by the fact that the respondents are mainly educated female students between 18-25 years. Further studies including a higher number of respondents from different age groups, background and social statutes will be needed to investigate this complex issue.