Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-klj7v Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-28T06:57:09.280Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Are Voters Sensitive to Terrorism? Direct Evidence from the Israeli Electorate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2008

Rand Corporation
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Claude Berrebi is an economist at Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 90407-2138. E-mail:
Esteban F. Klor is Assistant Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905Israel, and Centre for Economic Policy Research. E-mail:


This article relies on the variation of terror attacks across time and space as an instrument to identify the causal effects of terrorism on the preferences of the Israeli electorate. We find that the occurrence of a terror attack in a given locality within three months of the elections causes an increase of 1.35 percentage points on that locality's support for the right bloc of political parties out of the two blocs vote. This effect is of a significant political magnitude because of the high level of terrorism in Israel and the fact that its electorate is closely split between the right and left blocs. Moreover, a terror fatality has important electoral effects beyond the locality where the attack is perpetrated, and its electoral impact is stronger the closer to the elections it occurs. Interestingly, in left-leaning localities, local terror fatalities cause an increase in the support for the right bloc, whereas terror fatalities outside the locality increase the support for the left bloc of parties. Given that a relatively small number of localities suffer terror attacks, we demonstrate that terrorism does cause the ideological polarization of the electorate. Overall, our analysis provides strong empirical support for the hypothesis that the electorate shows a highly sensitive reaction to terrorism.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Abadie, Alberto. 2006. “Poverty, Political Freedom and the Roots of Terrorism.” The American Economic Review 96 (May): 5056.Google Scholar
Abrahms, Max. 2006. “Why Terrorism Does Not Work.” International Security 31 (Fall): 4278.Google Scholar
Al-Haj, Majid. 1995. “The Political Behavior of the Arabs in Israel in the 1992 Elections: Integration versus Segregation.” In The Elections in Israel 1992, ed. Arian, Asher and Shamir, Michal. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Angrist, Joshua D., and Pischke, Jörn-Steffen. 2008. Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Bali, Valentina A. 2007. “Terror and Elections: Lessons from Spain.” Electoral Studies. 26 (3), 669–87, September.Google Scholar
Ben Bassat, Avi, and Dahan, Momi. 2007. “On the Importance of Groups for Voting Turnout.” Mimeo. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, School of Public Policy.Google Scholar
Benmelech, Efraim, and Berrebi, Claude. 2007. “Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 21 (Summer): 223–38.Google Scholar
Berman, Eli, and Laitin, David D.. 2005. “Hard Targets: Evidence on the Tactical Use of Suicide Attacks.” Working Paper 11740, National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
Berrebi, Claude. 2007. “Evidence about the Link between Education, Poverty and Terrorism among Palestinians.” Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy 13 (1), Article 2.Google Scholar
Berrebi, Claude, and Klor, Esteban F.. 2006. “On Terrorism and Electoral Outcomes: Theory and Evidence from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (December): 899925.Google Scholar
Berrebi, Claude, and Klor, Esteban F.. 2008. “The Impact of Terrorism Across Industries: An Empirical Study.” Economica, in press.Google Scholar
Berrebi, Claude, and Lakdawalla, Darius. 2007. “How Does Terrorism Risk Vary Across Space and Time? An Analysis Based on the Israeli Experience.” Defense and Peace Economics 18 (April): 113–31.Google Scholar
Bertrand, Marianne, Duflo, Esther, and Mullainathan, Sendhil. 2004. “How Much Should We Trust Difference-in-Differences Estimates?” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 119 (February): 249–75.Google Scholar
Bloom, Mia. 2004. “Palestinian Suicide Bombing: Public Support, Market Share, and Outbidding.” Political Science Quarterly 119 (Spring): 6188.Google Scholar
Bloom, Mia. 2005. Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan. 2005a. “Conciliation, Counterterrorism and Patterns of Terrorist Violence.” International Organization 59 (January): 145–76.Google Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan. 2005b. “The Quality of Terror.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (July): 515–30.Google Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan., and Dickson, Eric. 2006. “The Propaganda of the Deed: Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Mobilization.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (April): 364–81.Google Scholar
Davis, Darren W., and Silver, Brian D.. 2004. “The Threat of Terrorism, Presidential Approval, and the 2004 Election.” Mimeo. Michigan State University, Department of Political Science.Google Scholar
Enders, Walter, and Sandler, Todd. 1993. “The Effectiveness of Antiterrorism Policies: A Vector Autoregression Intervention Analysis.” American Political Science Review 87 (December): 829–44.Google Scholar
Fielding, David and Penny, Madeline. 2006. “What Causes Changes in Opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process?” Economics Discussion Papers No. 0601. University of Otago.Google Scholar
Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Gartner, Scott Sigmund., and Segura, Gary M.. 1998. “War, Casualties and Public Opinion.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 42 (June): 278300.Google Scholar
Gartner, Scott Sigmund, Segura, Gary M.., and Wilkening, Michael. 1997. “All Politics are Local: Local Losses and Individual Attitudes toward the Vietnam War.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 41 (October): 669–94.Google Scholar
Ghanem, As'ad., and Ozacky-Lazar, Sarah. 2002. “Israel as an Ethnic State: The Arab Vote.” In The Elections in Israel 1999, ed. Arian, Asher and Shamir, Michal. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Goldberg, Giora. 2004. “The Electoral Collapse of the Israeli Doves.” Israeli Affairs 10 (Summer): 3655.Google Scholar
Gordon, Carol., and Arian, Asher. 2001. “Threat and Decision Making.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (April): 196215.Google Scholar
Guilmartin, Eugenia. 2004. “Terrorist Attacks and Presidential Approval from 1949–2002.” Mimeo. U.S. Military Academy.Google Scholar
Jackson, Sara E., and Reiter, Dan. 2007. “Does Democracy Matter? Regime Type and Suicide Terrorism.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 (April): 329–48.Google Scholar
Jaeger, David A., and Paserman, M. Daniele. 2006. “Israel, the Palestinian Factions, and the Cycle of Violence.” The American Economic Review 96 (May): 4549.Google Scholar
Jaeger, David A., and Paserman, M. Daniele. 2008. “The Cycle of Violence? An Empirical Analysis of Fatalities in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?” The American Economic Review, 98 (4), September.Google Scholar
Karol, David, and Miguel, Edward. 2007. “Iraq War Casualties and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election.” Journal of Politics 69 (August): 633–48.Google Scholar
Kiewiet, D. Roderick. 1981. “Policy-Oriented Voting in Response to Economic Issues.” American Political Science Review 75 (June): 448–59.Google Scholar
Krueger, Alan B., and Laitin, David D.. 2008. “Kto Kogo?: A Cross-Country Study of the Origins and Targets of Terrorism.” In Terrorism, Economic Development, and Political Openness, ed. Keefer, Philip and Loayza, Norman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Krueger, Alan B., and Malečková, Jitka. 2003. “Education, Poverty, and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 17 (Fall): 119–44.Google Scholar
Kydd, Andrew H., and Walter, Barbara F.. 2002. “Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence.” International Organization 56 (April): 263–96.Google Scholar
Kydd, Andrew H., and Walter, Barbara F.. 2006. “The Strategies of Terrorism.” International Security 31 (Summer): 4980.Google Scholar
Lewis-Beck, Michael S., and Stegmaier, Mary. 2000. “Economics Determinants of Electoral Outcomes.” Annual Review of Political Science 3 (June): 183219.Google Scholar
Ludvigsen, Stian Skar. 2005. “The Cost of Ruling Israel: Measuring the Political Cost of Terrorism.” Mimeo. University of Bergen, Department of Political Science.Google Scholar
Mueller, John E. 1973. War, Presidents and Public Opinion. New York: John Wiley.Google Scholar
Pape, Robert A. 2003. “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.” American Political Science Review 97 (August): 343–61.Google Scholar
Pape, Robert A. 2005. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Piazza, James A. 2006. “Rooted in Poverty?: Terrorism, Poor Economic Development, and Social Cleavages.” Terrorism and Political Violence 18 (March): 159177.Google Scholar
Powell, G. Bingham Jr., and Whitten, Guy D.. 1993. “A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political Context.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (May): 391414.Google Scholar
Rouhana, Nadim, Saleh, Nabil, and Sultany, Nimer. 2005. “Voting without Voice: About the Vote of the Palestinian Minority in the 16th Knesset Elections.” In The Elections in Israel 2003, ed. Arian, Asher and Shamir, Michal. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
Sartori, Giovanni. 1976. Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Shamir, Michal, and Arian, Asher. 1999. “Collective Identity and Electoral Competition in Israel.” American Political Science Review 93 (June): 265–77.Google Scholar
Shambaugh, George, and Josiger, William. 2004. “Public Prudence, the Policy Salience of Terrorism and Presidential Approval Following Terrorist Incidents.” Mimeo. Georgetown University, Department of Government.Google Scholar
Sheafer, Tamir. 2004. “Economic and Security Voting in Israel, 1949–2003.” Mimeo. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Political Science.Google Scholar
Sheafer, TamirDvir, Shira, and Poran, Gitit. 2007. “Media and Attitudes Toward Peace: Framing, Associative Networks, and Public Opinion.” Mimeo. Presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association.Google Scholar
Siqueira, Kevin, and Sandler, Todd. 2006. “Terrorists versus the Government: Strategic Interaction, Support and Sponsorship.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (December): 878–98.Google Scholar
Tiebout, Charles M. 1956. “A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures.” The Journal of Political Economy 64 (October): 416–24.Google Scholar
Yediot Aharonot. 2003. “How Many Parliament Seats is a Terrorist Attack Worth?” January 10.Google Scholar