Are voters sensitive to terrorism? Direct evidence from the israeli electorate

Claude Berrebi*, Esteban F. Klor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

289 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)279-301
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Claude Berrebi is an economist at Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 90407-2138. E-mail: [email protected] Esteban F. Klor is Assistant Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905 Israel, and Centre for Economic Policy Research. E-mail: [email protected] We are grateful to Efraim Benmelech, Eli Berman, Haggai Etkes, Eric Gould, Stian Ludvigsen, Tamir Sheafer, and, especially, M. Daniele Paserman, the anonymous reviewers, the former editor of the Review, Lee Sigelman, and the current team of editors of the Review for very helpful comments, suggestions, and discussions. The article also benefited from the comments of audiences at seminars and conferences too many to mention. Yaron Aronshtam and Hernan Meller provided invaluable help in the construction of the data sets and Mike Tseng provided outstanding programming assistance with geographic information system. Esteban Klor thanks the Samuel Neeman Institute for financial support. This document has not been subject to formal review by the RAND Corporation. The opinions and conclusions are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policy of the RAND Corporation or its research clients and sponsors.


  • Arab-Israeli conflict -- 1948
  • Israel -- Politics and government
  • Political parties -- Israel


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