Why voters prefer moderate leaders in the face of terrorism

Why voters prefer moderate leaders in the face of terrorism

January 14, 20192 min read

From 1970 to 2016, 11,176 people in Europe died from terrorist attacks. These numbers do not include those that were wounded or missing.

Terrorist attacks, especially deadly ones, are likely to affect the way people vote.

But what is the exact impact of terrorism on voting patterns?

Following terrorist attacks, in international elections people are more likely to vote for moderate or centrist political parties as opposed to right and leftist parties, according to a study published by Augusta University researchers Dr. Lance Hunter and Dr. Martha Ginn.

The study, published in “Global Policy” on Jan. 3, 2019, analyzed the effect terrorist attacks had on voting patterns for left, right and moderate political parties in elections for more than 50 democracies worldwide. The findings have several implications for public policy.

First, it is clear that terrorism affects the political behavior of voters. Therefore, Hunter and Ginn recommend that governments develop and communicate sensible counterterrorism policies in effort to maintain electoral stability.

Second, counterterrorism policies that are viewed as overly aggressive in nature or passive are likely to be met with skepticism by voters. This is one possible reason why more moderate and centrist parties experience an increase in votes following terrorist attacks.

The party in power loses electoral support during increased terrorist activity. A possible solution to this, Hunter and Ginn said, includes developing sensible, realistic counterterrorism policies that address security concerns while avoiding reactionary policies.

Finally, rightist parties suffered the most electorally and lost support following both international and domestic attacks while leftist parties lost support following domestic attacks. Hunter and Ginn suggest that parties should tailor their counterterrorism proposals and messaging depending on the type of attack.

Connect with:
  • Lance Hunter, PhD
    Lance Hunter, PhD Professor of Political Science

    Dr. Lance Hunter studies the connection between terrorism and political stability in democracies.

  • Martha Ginn, PhD
    Martha Ginn, PhD Professor

    Dr. Martha Ginn is a political expert on the judicial process, constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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