Xenophobia before and after the Paris 2015 Attacks. Evidence from a Natural Experiment


In light of ongoing debates that discuss the link between Muslim migration and terrorist attacks in various European cities, this paper investigates how attitudes toward (Muslim) immigrants have been affected by these attacks. We draw on a German student survey conducted immediately before and after the attacks in Paris in November 2015. The experimental vignette design allows us to further differentiate between attitudes toward Syrian migrants from different religious backgrounds. We show that the attitudes towards immigration held by students who identify with conservative parties became more negative after the attacks. Immigrants’ religion also plays an important role depending on whether the issue in question is a social or political one. The attitudes of liberal students are hardly affected. This paper goes beyond existing studies that measure attitudes only in the aftermath of such attacks and focuses on attitudes regarding policy responses to terrorist attacks or attitudes towards immigrants in general. We show that such attacks do not lead to negative attitudes in general; they mostly do so for people who attach great importance to issues of national security. We also see that people differentiate between various migrant groups.