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Does The Waziristan Library Carry 'current Research In Social Psychology'?

Noam ponders the question of why bin Laden chose not to grace us with a videotape before the election and answers: bin Laden probably realized a tape might cut into Obama's lead, but not enough to result in a McCain victory, thus making him look impotent.

I'd add one more thought: it's possible a bin Laden videotape might have actually widened Obama's lead. I base that conclusion on an interesting paper by a couple of Berkeley sociologists, Robb Willer and Nick Adams, that recently appeared in Current Research in Social Psychology. Earlier this a year, Willer and Adams conducted a national survey in which some respondents were shown a fake newspaper article about an imminent terrorist attack on the U.S. and others weren't. All the respondents were then asked for their opinions of McCain and Obama. To quote from the article's abstract:

Overall, we find that exposure to terror threats increased concerns about "homeland security" without affecting candidate preferences. However, analysis of politically moderate respondents - a substantial subset of the total sample (40%) with a high rate of undecided, likely voters - showed that this group expressed significantly lower support for Senator John McCain when exposed to the terror threat than in the control condition. These findings converge with past research suggesting that Americans' views of the war on terror have changed significantly (Davis and Silver 2004) and that terror threats may serve as "anti-rally" events for candidates with unpopular foreign policies, especially among moderate or undecided voters (Bali 2007).

Maybe bin Laden isn't just the Colin Powell of Waziristan, he's the Malcolm Gladwell of Waziristan, as well. (H/t K.L.)

Jason Zengerle