Washington: Countries with advanced economies as well as a high degree of civil liberties are most likely to face the brunt of terror attacks, says a new study.
Economic status has more to do with target countries than it does with the states where the attacks originate, says Princeton University economist and professor Alan Krueger.
"Public opinion appears to be a useful predictor of terrorist activity," said Krueger. In findings consistent with his earlier work, he said there is no direct link between poverty and terrorism, contrary to a popular view.
Krueger hypothesised that greater disapproval of another country`s leaders or policies may result in more terrorist acts because it increases the number of people who provide material support and encouragement for terrorism.
For instance, new leadership and policies in a country, such as the election of Barack Obama in the US, might change opinions in other countries and alter terrorist activity.
This also increases the number of people interested in joining cells and carrying out terrorist acts themselves.
Krueger and co-author Jitka Male of Charles University in the Czech Republic) have correlated attitudes toward a foreign country and terror attacks against that country.
Researchers carried out their study by mining public opinion polls of residents in 19 countries in the Middle East and northern Africa conducted by Gallup.
Respondents were asked whether they approved of the job performance of the leaders of nine large countries.
Those countries, selected because they are world powers in terms of size, population or military strength, are the US, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and Britain.
The opinions, both positive and negative, were then linked to the number of terrorist attacks against these nine world powers by people from the 19 countries between 2004 and 2008.
The terror attacks were compiled by the National Counter-terrorism Centre. The study does not explain whether terrorists act in response to public opinion or whether they are simply reacting just like the larger public to external events, he noted.
In either case, however, he noted that public opinion surveys can provide a powerful indication of the likelihood of terrorist activity, says a Princeton release.
Krueger has published many papers about the origins of terrorism, and he has urged terrorism experts to apply the rigorous techniques of social science to questions concerning terrorism and its effects.
The research is detailed in the Friday issue of Science.