Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cesar J Rebellon

Second Advisor

Benjamin C Brown

Third Advisor

Lawrence C Hamilton


The politics of fear have deeply divided the United States of America. Decades of propaganda portray Muslims as a terrorist threat to the dominant US culture and society. The War on Terror and its consequences, including the rise of ISIL and the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis, resulted in the destabilization of democracy in both the US and Europe. I argue that the US public’s fear of terrorism is not just a fear of violence but instead reflects racial tensions and anxieties in a rapidly changing world. These tensions and anxieties are fueled by media coverage leveraging a general fear and distrust of non-white foreigners. The result of this is a pervasive fear of violent victimization at the hands of minorities, shaped by mass media content, which politicians capitalize on for their own gain. In this dissertation, I study the media effects of agenda setting, framing, and reinforcing spirals on public fear of terrorism with data from the Granite State Poll (GSP), Gallup’s Most Important Problem (MIP), and a content analysis of broadcast news transcripts from NexisUni. I expand on current research by examining the fear of terrorism from the perspectives of criminological theory, critical media studies, and racial formation theory.