Empirical Essays on Public and Media Attitudes to Conflict

Nathan Woolley

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The lens through which people observe and form judgements upon conflict and terrorism depends heavily on the media they consume as well as their personal circumstances. This thesis is comprised of three empirical studies; the first two investigate how media reporting of armed conflict affects both the perceptions of news consumers and the completeness of media-based datasets, the third analyses the determinants of public support for terrorism. Chapter 1 studies the factors that drive variation in the intensity of media coverage that violent events receive and the impact this will have upon consumers of news media. This is achieved by using the unique Iraq Body Count (IBC) database. Conflict events accruing intense media coverage are those that have higher numbers of fatalities and injuries, use more newsworthy weapons (e.g. explosive violence) and occur on weekdays. Events occurring further from Baghdad receive a reporting intensity penalty, particularly among the international media. Chapter 2 considers the impact of heterogenous reporting on media-based conflict event datasets. Founders of such datasets select a subset of sources from the universe of news media outlets to be monitored. This source selection affects both the overall body count as well as the dataset's event type composition. The chapter also applies multiple systems estimation (MSE) techniques to the Iraq case finding that IBC is likely missing a substantial number of events and that these are not randomly distributed across event types. The third chapter considers how an individual's support for terrorism against civilians is determined by their socio-economic and religious characteristics. The study uses 11 rounds of Pew's Global Attitudes Survey in five Muslim countries. Results show that support for terrorism generally declines as household income or religious commitment rises. Increased levels of education, however, may significantly increase support for terrorism in some countries. Finally, a concluding chapter draws out the implications from these three studies as well as the synergies between them.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Spagat, Michael, Supervisor
  • Rud, Juan Pablo, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Conflict Economics
  • Development
  • Media Framing
  • Terrorism
  • Dataset Completeness
  • Suicide Bombing
  • Multiple Systems Estimation
  • Extremism

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