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Terrorist Attacks and Immigration Rhetoric: A Natural Experiment on British MPs


  • Daniele Guariso

    (Department of Economics, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)


We study the effects of exogenous shocks on the rhetoric of British politicians on social media. In particular, we focus on the impact of terrorist attacks on the issue of immigration. For this purpose, we collect all the immigration-related Tweets from the active Twitter accounts of MPs using Web Scraping and Machine Learning techniques. Looking at the Manchester bombing of 2017 as our main Event Study, we detect a counterintuitive finding: a substantial decrease in the expected number of immigration-related Tweets occurred after the incident. We hypothesize that this “muting effect” results from risk-averse strategic behaviour of politicians during the election campaign. However, the MPs' response shows remarkable heterogeneity according to the socio-economic characteristics of their constituencies.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniele Guariso, 2018. "Terrorist Attacks and Immigration Rhetoric: A Natural Experiment on British MPs," Working Paper Series 1218, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:sus:susewp:1218

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    political behaviour; machine learning; social media; immigration; terrorism;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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