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Christophe Chowanietz, "Rallying around the flag or railing against the government? Political parties' reactions to terrorist acts," Party Politics, 17 (September, 2011), 673-698. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
On 12 September 2001, in the midst of the worst terrorist crisis in United States history, dozens of members of the US Congress from both the Republican and Democratic parties stood side-by-side on the steps of the Capitol pledging their support for George W. Bush in a rare display of unity.1 In the days that followed the tragic events of 9/11, Bush's public approval ratings rose from 51 percent to an unprecedented 86 percent.2 With a large support both in Congress and across the nation, the rally around the flag was complete and of a proportion unseen in the United States since the attack on Pearl Harbor some 60 years before. There ensued a period of several weeks during which the mainstream political elite in Washington acquiesced to almost every decision taken by the Republican Administration. To all intents and purposes, partisan politics in Congress ceased for a time. During this silent autumn, the United States government was able to launch a major military operation abroad and severely restrict the rights of its citizens at home, all in the name of the 'war on terror' and all with minimal interference by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. The rallying phenomenon
Table 2. The magnitude effect
Table 3. The repetition effect
Table 4. The target effect
Table 5. The 9/11 effect
Table 6. The international terrorism effect
Table 7. The right-wing effect
Table 8. Factors affecting the probability of rally

Last Paragraph:
The results reported here are limited in both time (since 1990) and scope (five countries), but indicate at the very least a tendency among mainstream parties and elites to be less critical of the government in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. These findings confirm that parties, whether they face a conventional threat or an unconventional threat, will tend to support their government at least in the early stages of a crisis. The extension of this analysis to include more countries as well as extended case studies would be an important step in better understanding the factors that affect parties' reactions to terrorist acts, notably their response in terms of counter-terrorist legislation.

Last updated August 2011