Can terrorism shift the political landscape of a nation? Exploiting quasi-random variation between successful and failed terror 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. Successful attacks lead to differential increases in turnout which are mainly captured by the AfD; by contrast, the vote share for the ruling party decreases significantly. Using the German SOEP, a longitudinal panel of individuals, we find that people who reside in municipalities that experience successful attacks identify as more right-wing, prefer the AfD more and the ruling party less, and are more worried about migration and social cohesion. These results hold despite the fact that most attacks are targeted against migrants by right-wing nationalists. The AfD responds to attacks by speaking more about asylum, crime and Islam in its election manifestos at the state level. All other parties shift in the opposite direction.
Sabet, N, M Liebald and G Friebel (eds) (2022), “DP17525 Terrorism and Voting: The Rise of Right-Wing Populism in Germany”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 17525. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17525