The dynamics of public opinion following terror attacks: Evidence for a decrease in equalitarian values from Internet Search Volume Indices


The tendency of terror attacks to generate increased right-wing attitudes is a direct prediction from the motivated cognition approach to political ideology (Jost, 2017). However, due to methodological and theoretical problems, evidence for this ‘right-shift’ hypothesis is currently mixed. To address these issues, we introduce for the first-time search volume indices (SVI) analysis to the study of public opinion dynamics by assessing the effects of exposure to the 2015 Paris terror attacks, with a focus on equalitarian values related searches in the French cyberspace. Consistent with the ‘right-shift’ hypothesis, we demonstrate that online collective threat salience (SVI for the word ‘terror attack’) predicts significant decreases in equalitarian values SVI (e.g. ‘equality’) 6 weeks later, but not in non-equalitarian values SVI (e.g. ‘liberty’). Mixed-model analyses of SVI for the period 2012-2017 confirmed these results by showing both decrease in equalitarian values SVI and no change in non-equalitarian values SVI after 2015. These findings corroborate the ‘right-shift’ hypothesis at the societal level using ecological-behavioural measures of public opinion and demonstrate the value of SVI analysis for theory-testing in political psychology.

Bibliographic citation

Troian, J., Arciszewski, T., & Apostolidis, T. (2019). The dynamics of public opinion following terror attacks: Evidence for a decrease in equalitarian values from Internet Search Volume Indices. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13(3), article 4. doi:


Search Volume Indices; big data; anti-equalitarian; terror attacks; right-shift

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