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After Utøya: How a High-Trust Society Reacts to Terror—Trust and Civic Engagement in the Aftermath of July 22

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2012

Dag Wollebæk
UNI Rokkan Center
Bernard Enjolras
Institute for Social Research
Kari Steen-Johnsen
Institute for Social Research
Guro Ødegård
Institute for Social Research


The article examines short-term effects of terror on trust and civic engagement in Norway. Prior to the July 22, 2011 attacks, Norway ranked among the nations with the highest levels of trust and civic engagement in the world. How does a nation of trusters react to terror? Based on two web surveys conducted in March/April 2011 and August 2011 short-term effects on trust, fear, and political interest and participation are analyzed. Two competing hypotheses are explored: first, the “end-of-innocence hypothesis,” which assumes that the attacks have disrupted trust and instilled a new culture of fear, and second, the “remobilization hypothesis,” which assumes that the attacks have led to a reinforcement of trust and of civic values. Our results show increased interpersonal and institutional trust as well as a modest increase in civic engagement, especially among youth. Moreover, there is little increase in experienced fear within the population. Our study therefore supports the remobilization-of-trust hypothesis. Contrary to the intended aims of the attacker, the structures of trust and civic engagement seem to have been reinforced in Norwegian society. This study in part corroborates findings concerning short-term effects after September 11, 2001.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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