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Terrorism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from the United States


  • Baccini, Leonardo
  • Brodeur, Abel
  • Nossek, Sean
  • Shor, Eran


This paper examines the impact of terrorism on voting behavior in the United States. We rely on an exhaustive list of terror attacks over the period 1970-2016 and exploit the inherent randomness of the success or failure of terror attacks to identify the political impacts of terrorism. We first confirm that the success of terror attacks is plausibly random by showing that it is orthogonal to potential confounders. We then show that on average successful attacks have no effect on presidential and non-presidential elections. As a benchmark, we also rely on a more naïve identification strategy using all the counties not targeted by terrorists as a comparison group. We show that using this naïve identification strategy leads to strikingly different results overestimating the effect of terror attacks on voting behavior. Overall, our results indicate that terrorism has less of an in uence on voters than is usually thought.

Suggested Citation

  • Baccini, Leonardo & Brodeur, Abel & Nossek, Sean & Shor, Eran, 2021. "Terrorism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from the United States," GLO Discussion Paper Series 755, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:755

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric D. Gould & Esteban F. Klor, 2010. "Does Terrorism Work?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 125(4), pages 1459-1510.
    2. Abel Brodeur, 2018. "The Effect of Terrorism on Employment and Consumer Sentiment: Evidence from Successful and Failed Terror Attacks," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 246-282, October.
    3. Berrebi, Claude & Klor, Esteban F., 2008. "Are Voters Sensitive to Terrorism? Direct Evidence from the Israeli Electorate," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 102(3), pages 279-301, August.
    4. José G. Montalvo, 2011. "Voting after the Bombings: A Natural Experiment on the Effect of Terrorist Attacks on Democratic Elections," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1146-1154, November.
    5. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    6. Gassebner, Martin & Jong-A-Pin, Richard & Mierau, Jochen O., 2008. "Terrorism and electoral accountability: One strike, you're out!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(1), pages 126-129, July.
    7. Koch Michael & Tkach Benjamin, 2012. "Deterring or Mobilizing? The Influence of Government Partisanship and Force on the Frequency, Lethality and Suicide Attacks of Terror Events," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 18(2), pages 1-29, August.
    8. Robert Barro, 1973. "The control of politicians: An economic model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 19-42, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rees, Daniel I. & Smith, Brock, 2022. "Terror attacks and election outcomes in Europe, 1970–2017," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 219(C).
    2. Kaustav Das & Atisha Ghosh & Pushkar Maitra, 2021. "Exogenous Shocks and Electoral Outcomes: Re-examining the Rational Voter Hypothesis," Monash Economics Working Papers 2021-13, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Amarasinghe, Ashani, 2023. "Public sentiment in times of terror," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    4. Stancanelli, Elena G. F., 2023. "British Voting Intentions and the Far Reach of 11 September Terrorist Attacks in New York," IZA Discussion Papers 16120, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item


    terrorism; voting behavior;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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