Public Choice

, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 213–228

It can happen here: the impact of the Mumbai terror attacks on public opinion in Western Europe


  • Ola Listhaug
    • Department of Sociology and Political ScienceNTNU

DOI: 10.1007/s11127-011-9895-7

Cite this article as:
Finseraas, H. & Listhaug, O. Public Choice (2013) 156: 213. doi:10.1007/s11127-011-9895-7


Do terror attacks have an impact on public opinion, even if the terror attacks happen far away? We exploit the fact that the fourth round of the European Social Survey was conducted in several West European countries at the time of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, in order to identify the causal effect of the Mumbai attacks on public opinion. We identify a clear jump in fear of terrorism at home as a consequence of the terror attacks, but despite the increase in fear of terrorism, we find no significant effect of the attack on support for illiberal interrogation techniques or for liberal immigration policies. We do find indications of a shift in conservative direction on the left–right scale, but this shift is not significant in all time windows. Our findings suggest that a terror attack needs to have a very large impact on the fear of terrorism before people change their policy preferences.


TerrorismPublic opinionCausal inferenceNatural experiment

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011