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06.11.2019 | Original Paper Open Access

Counterterrorism Policies and Attitudes Towards Out-Groups: Evidence from a Survey Experiment on Citizens’ Attitudes Towards Wiretapping

Political Behavior
Dag Arne Christensen, Jacob Aars
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Terrorism often leads to increased stigmatization of groups perceived as “out-groups”. We test two versions of out-group theory and ask whether citizens clearly distinguish between radical Muslims and Muslims in general, or if the fear of terrorism is associated with a general distrust of Muslims? We conducted a survey experiment among Norwegian citizens designed to determine the effect of group treatments on the participants’ attitudes towards wiretapping. We find that our group treatments strongly influence the participants’ attitudes towards wiretapping. However, the hypothesis that the fear of terrorism leads to a backlash against Muslims in general is rejected. Still, Norwegians are prepared to give the police leeway towards the two groups identified by the police as the greatest security risks, i.e., radical Muslim and extreme right-wing groups. Our evidence suggests that citizens are capable of discriminating between groups who aim explicitly at undermining democracy and groups perceived as different from themselves.

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