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A comparative study of authoritarianism, perceived threat of terrorism, and anti-immigrant attitudes

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Given the recent electoral success of populist political actors who promote anti-immigrant platforms and rhetoric based on the fear of terrorism, this study examines to what extent the threat of terrorism affects how individuals view immigrants. Existing research suggests that large-scale threats to national security, such as terrorism, can mobilize widespread support beyond the far-right for punitive or discriminatory policies toward groups or individuals associated with the threat. Literature on perceptions of threat suggest that an individual’s sensitivity and responsiveness to threat is based on cognitive traits that determine how one handles uncertainty and societal change. These cognitive traits are referred to as an individual’s level of authoritarianism. Using data from the World Values Survey, I find that individuals with higher levels of authoritarianism are more sensitive to the perceived threat of terrorism in Germany, Poland, and the US, while the reverse is possible in the Netherlands.
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