Do terrorist attacks feed populist Eurosceptics? Evidence from two comparative quasi-experiments

Erik Gahner Larsen*, David Cutts, Matthew J. Goodwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Over recent years, Europe has experienced a series of Islamic terrorist attacks. In this article, conflicting theoretical expectations are derived on whether such attacks increase populist Euroscepticism in the form of anti-immigration, anti-refugee and anti-European Union sentiment. Empirically, plausible exogenous variation in the exposure to the 2016 Berlin attack is exploited in two nationally representative surveys covering multiple European countries. No evidence is found for a populist response to the terrorist attack in any of the surveyed countries. On the contrary, people in Germany became more positive towards the EU in the wake of the Berlin attack. Moreover, little evidence is found that ideology shaped the response to the attack. The findings suggest that terrorist attacks are not met by an immediate public populist response.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Mar 2019


  • Europe
  • populism
  • public opinion
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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