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The Impact of Persistent Terrorism on Political Tolerance: Israel, 1980 to 2011


How do persistent terrorist attacks influence political tolerance, a willingness to extend basic liberties to one's enemies? Studies in the U.S. and elsewhere have produced a number of valuable insights into how citizens respond to singular, massive attacks like 9/11. But they are less useful for evaluating how chronic and persistent terrorist attacks erode support for democratic values over the long haul. Our study focuses on political tolerance levels in Israel across a turbulent 30-year period, from 1980 to 2011, which allows us to distinguish the short-term impact of hundreds of terrorist attacks from the long-term influence of democratic longevity on political tolerance. We find that the corrosive influence of terrorism on political tolerance is much more powerful among Israelis who identify with the Right, who have also become much more sensitive to terrorism over time. We discuss the implications of our findings for other democracies under threat from terrorism.

Corresponding author
Mark Peffley is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kentucky, 1653 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506 (
Marc L. Hutchison is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Rhode Island, Washburn Hall, 80 Upper College Rd., Kingston, RI 02881 (
Michal Shamir is Professor, Department of Political Science, Tel-Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel-Aviv, Israel 6997801 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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