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May 3, 2023

SOEP Brown Bag Seminar

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


May 3, 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. Our results are predominantly observable in state (Bundesland) elections, though attacks that receive high media coverage significantly increase the AfD vote share in Federal elections. These patterns hold even though most attacks are motivated by right-wing causes and target migrants. Investigating channels, we find that successful attacks lead to differential increases in turnout, which the AfD mainly captures. Using the German SOEP, a longitudinal panel of individuals, we investigate terror’s impact on political attitudes. We find that successful terror leads individuals to prefer the AfD, worry more about migration, and report significantly greater political participation at the local level. Successful terror also leads voters to migrate away from (some) mainstream parties to the AfD. Exploiting news reports, we find that successful attacks receive more media coverage from local and regional publishers and that this coverage focuses on issues related to Islam and terror. This suggests that media make successful terror salient to voters.

Topics: Personality