Julian Wucherpfennig, Hertie School

Research by Julian Wucherpfennig and co-authors explores how terrorism affects attitudes towards migration and democracy


The CIVICA Research project aims to inform decisions on national and international migration policy.

How do terrorist attacks affect the attitudes of a host country towards migrants when migrants are either victims or perpetrators of such attacks? Through their project “Migration, Terrorism, and Democracy”, researchers at the Hertie School, The London School of Economics (LSE) and the European University Institute (EUI) hope to provide insights into how policymaking could foster more inclusive attitudes and behaviours towards migrants in host countries. One of its lead authors is Julian Wucherpfennig, Professor of International Affairs and Security at the Hertie School.

The authors hope their findings will be beneficial to those working with refugees and migrants on a local, national, and international level. Wucherpfennig and his colleagues Prof. Anna Getmansky (LSE) and Prof. Elias Dinas (EUI) are currently in the process of compiling their data. They plan to introduce their work in fall 2022 to stakeholders from the public and non-profit sector, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM).

“Migration—and its alleged link with terrorism — continue to play a central role in public debates across Europe,” Wucherpfennig says. “However, there are only a limited number of scientific studies on this presumed link. With our work, we want to find out how Europeans respond to migration and its alleged nexus with terrorism,” the expert adds.

The research project investigates whether citizens adopt exclusionary views and policy preferences, and whether these views increase the willingness to act on them politically. Together with Getmansky and Dinas, Wucherpfennig asks what policy-relevant interventions can promote inclusionary behaviour and eschew exclusionary and anti-democratic acts.

The collaborative research project is part of CIVICA, the European University of Social Sciences. CIVICA Research allows Wucherpfennig, Getmansky, and Dinas to share ideas and profit from common infrastructure, events, and funding.

The researchers’ goal is to evaluate how information about migrants, as either victims or perpetrators of terrorist attacks, affects attitudes towards migration by host populations. “We do this in two ways. First, we evaluate the consequences of migration-related terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2019 on democratic outcomes such as support for far-right parties,” Wucherpfennig explains. “Second, in an online survey experiment in Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Hungary among 8,000 participants between 18 and 70 years, we examine how information about the identity of the perpetrator or victim of a terrorist attack impacts attitudes towards migration, willingness to participate in political action, and views towards democratic norms of political participation.” Their findings might shed light on the questions, whether host populations see migrants as scapegoats for terrorist attacks or feel collective guilt, when natives attack them.

CIVICA Research brings together researchers from eight leading European universities in the social sciences to contribute knowledge and solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. The project aims to strengthen the research & innovation pillar of the European University alliance CIVICA. CIVICA Research is co-funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. To stay up to date with CIVICA Research developments and opportunities, subscribe to the newsletter.  

Written by Alina Zurmühlen (Hertie School)

Photo credit: Hertie School