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For 2016 Voters, Terror in Headlines is Business as Usual

Many American voters are resigned to the idea that terror and violence at home and abroad has become a new normal in the thrum of daily headlines.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As the world reels from Friday's terror attacks in Paris, many American voters are resigned to the idea that violence at home and abroad has become a new normal in the thrum of daily headlines.

Participants in two focus groups in suburban Columbus on Monday night expressed grim frustration rather than shock at the strikes in the French capital, and several likened the continuous grind of violent episodes abroad to frequent mass shootings here at home.

"As sad it is to say, you knew something like this was coming," said Brian P., a manufacturing supervisor from Hilliard, Ohio. "The way I look at it for the future is that there's going to be more. It's just a matter of where and when, and if it's going to be worse."

"I liken international terrorism to the domestic terrorism that we see on an almost weekly basis," said Michelle H. of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, as a majority of her fellow participants nodded their agreement. "I would consider domestic terrorism to be all of the shootings on college campuses and movie theaters and wherever the general public congregates."

The general election voters in this pair of focus groups, separated by gender of participants and conducted on behalf of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, agreed that the eruption of violence in the French capital would reshuffle how voters view the ongoing presidential race.

"People will be looking for a president willing to find [terrorists,] kill them, do whatever we need to do," said Anita H., a customer service representative in Columbus.

"Terror and the war on terror may become more of a focus than maybe it was before," suggested Dustin W., a guidance counselor from Galloway, Ohio. "Those who are taking a harder stance on it may see their numbers going up."

But they also suggested that the effect might be short-term.

Robert W., a retired teacher from Worthington, said that ISIS is less important than other issues that must be addressed here in the United States. "I don't see it as a domestic threat at the moment," he said of the terror organization.

Peter Hart, who conducted one of the two focus groups, said that the Paris massacre did not seem to have permanently changed the political landscape for these swing state voters.

"As serious as the terrorist bombings in Paris were, they did not seem to translate into a long-range sentiment that this election is only about terrorism," Hart said.

"There is, when it comes to terrorism and violence, a sense that there's an event a week, much like the school killings that have happened across the country. This is something to be expected and what we're going to be living with, rather than a whole new dynamic like how 9/11 changed the landscape."

"Outsider" candidates did seem to suffer with these general election voters, who generally gave high marks to Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience -- even among those who said they would not consider supporting her White House bid.

But most participants agreed that candidates on both sides of the aisle would soon return to more pressing problems within the country's borders.

Jimmy H., a retired member of military from Worthington, said that the candidates, like most voters, are largely focused on domestic issues but that they'll posture on foreign policy issues for the moment.

"The candidates haven't lost sight of what's on everybody's mind, with health care and other things like that," he said. "The only thing different is that now they have to look at a different strategy of 'How do I become a leader?'" because at this time right now, we need a leader."