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3. Mai 2023

SOEP Brown Bag Seminar

Terrorism and Voting: The Rise of Right-Wing Populism in Germany


3. Mai 2023


Karl Popper Room
DIW Berlin
Room 2.3.020
Mohrenstr. 58
10117 Berlin


Navid Sabet, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

-- joint with Marius Liebald and Guido Friebel

Can right-wing terrorism increase support for far-right populist parties and if so, why? Exploiting quasi-random variation between successful and failed attacks across German municipalities, we find that successful attacks lead to significant increases in the vote share for the right-wing, populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in state elections. Investigating channels, we find that successful attacks lead to differential increases in turnout which are mainly captured by the AfD. Using the German SOEP, a longitudinal panel of individuals, we investigate terror’s impact on individual political attitudes. We first document that people residing in municipalities that experience successful or failed attacks are indistinguishable. We then show that successful terror leads individuals to prefer the AfD, adopt more populist attitudes and report significantly greater political participation at the local level. Terror also leads voters to migrate away from (some) mainstream parties to the AfD. We also find differential media reporting: successful attacks receive more media coverage among local and regional publishers, coverage which makes significantly more use of words related to Islam and terror. Our results hold despite the fact that most attacks are motivated by right-wing causes and targeted against migrants. Moreover, successful attacks that receive the most media coverage have nearly double the effect on the AfD vote share in state elections and they also increase the AfD vote share in Federal elections, highlighting media salience as a driver of our overall results.

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