Are Voters Sensitive to Terrorism?

Direct Evidence from the Israeli Electorate

by Claude Berrebi, Esteban F. Klor

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This paper relies on the variation of terror attacks across time and space as an instrument to identify the causal effects of terrorism on the preferences of the Israeli electorate. The authors find that the occurrence of a terror attack within three months of the elections is associated with a 1.35 percentage points increase on the local support for the right bloc of political parties out of the two blocs vote. This effect is of a significant political magnitude given the level of terrorism in Israel and the fact that its electorate is closely split between the right and left blocs. Moreover, a terror fatality has important electoral effects beyond the locality where the attack is perpetrated, and their electoral impact is stronger the closer to the elections they occur. Interestingly, the observed political effects are not affected by the identity of the party holding office. These results provide empirical support for the hypothesis that the electorate shows a highly sensitive reaction to terrorism, and substantiate the claim that terror organizations especially target democratic regimes because these regimes are more prone to make territorial concessions.

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