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.

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

Akan, M. (2009). Laïcité and multiculturalism: The Stasi Report in context. The British Journal of Sociology, 60, 237-256.

Al-Osh, M. A., & Alzaid, A. A. (1987). First order integer-valued autoregressive (INAR (1)) process. Journal of Time Series Analysis, 8, 261-275.

Atran, S. (2016). The devoted actor: Unconditional commitment and intractable conflict across cultures. Current Anthropology, 57(Suppl. 13), S192-S203.

Babicki S., Arndt, D., Marcu, A., Liang, Y., Grant, J. R., Maciejewski, A., & Wishart, D. S. (2016). Heatmapper: Web-enabled heat mapping for all. Nucleic Acids Research, 44(W1), W147-W153.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Funder, D. C. (2007). Psychology as the science of self-reports and finger movements: Whatever happened to actual behavior? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 396-403.

Box, G. E. P., & Cox, D. R. (1964). An analysis of transformations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 26, 211-252. Retrieved from

Box, G. E. P., Jenkins, G. M., & Reinsel, G. C. (1994). Time series analysis: Forecasting and control (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Box, G. E. P., & Tiao, G. C. (1975). Intervention analysis with applications to economic and environmental problems. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 70(349), 70-79.

Burke, B. L., Kosloff, S., & Landau, M. J. (2013). Death goes to the polls: A meta‐analysis of mortality salience effects on political attitudes. Political Psychology, 34, 183-200.

Campbell, D. T., & Fiske, D. W. (1959). Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix. Psychological Bulletin, 56, 81-105.

Cohen, D., Nisbett, R. E., Bowdle, B. F., & Schwarz, N. (1996). Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: An "experimental ethnography". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 945-960.

Cohu, M., Maisonneuve, C., & Testé, B. (2016). The “Charlie-Hebdo” effect: Repercussions of the January 2015 terrorist attacks in France on prejudice toward immigrants and North-Africans, social dominance orientation, and attachment to the principle of laïcité. International Review of Social Psychology, 29, 50-58.

Crandall, C. S., & Eshleman, A. (2003). A justification-suppression model of the expression and experience of prejudice. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 414-446.

DiGrazia, J. (2017). Using Internet search data to produce state-level measures: The case of tea party mobilization. Sociological Methods & Research, 46, 898-925.

Eadeh, F. R., & Chang, K. K. (2019). Can threat increase support for liberalism? New insights into the relationship between threat and political attitudes. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Advance online publication.

Enders, W., & Sandler, T. (1993). The effectiveness of antiterrorism policies: A vector-autoregression-intervention analysis. American Political Science Review, 87, 829-844.

Finkel, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (Eds.). (2019). Advanced social psychology: The state of the science (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gilbert, D. T., Lieberman, M. D., Morewedge, C. K., & Wilson, T. D. (2004). The peculiar longevity of things not so bad. Psychological Science, 15, 14-19.

Google. (2017). Google Trends Help. Retrieved at

Granger, C. W. J., & Newbold, P. (1974). Spurious regressions in econometrics. Journal of Econometrics, 2, 111-120.

Guimond, S., de la Sablonnière, R., & Nugier, A. (2014). Living in a multicultural world: Intergroup ideologies and the societal context of intergroup relations. European Review of Social Psychology, 25, 142-188.

Haidt, J., Graham, J., & Joseph, C. (2009). Above and below left–right: Ideological narratives and moral foundations. Psychological Inquiry, 20, 110-119.

Hamilton, J. D. (1994). Time series analysis (1st ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hancock, C., & Mobillion, V. (2019). “I want to tell them, I'm just wearing a veil, not carrying a gun!” Muslim women negotiating borders in femonationalist Paris. Political Geography, 69, 1-9.

Henderson-King, E., Henderson-King, D., & Hathaway, L. (2009). Group favoritism and support for government policies as a function of patriotic orientation and perceived threat. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 22(3), 235-266. Retrieved from

Huddy, L., Feldman, S., Taber, C., & Lahav, G. (2005). Threat, anxiety, and support of antiterrorism policies. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 593-608.

Hyndman, R. J., O'Hara-Wild, M., Bergmeir, C., Razbash, S., Wang, E., & Hyndman, M. R. (2017). forecast: Forecasting Functions for Time Series and Linear Models. R package version 8.2.

IPSOS. (2017, March). La place de la religion et de la laïcité dans l’élection présidentielle [The role of religion and secularism during the presidential election]. Retrieved from

Jeffries, C. H., Hornsey, M. J., Sutton, R. M., Douglas, K. M., & Bain, P. G. (2012). The David and Goliath principle: Cultural, ideological, and attitudinal underpinnings of the normative protection of low-status groups from criticism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1053-1065.

Jonas, E., McGregor, I., Klackl, J., Agroskin, D., Fritsche, I., Holbrook, C., & Quirin, M. (2014). Threat and defense: From anxiety to approach. In J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 49 (pp. 219-286). San Diego, CA, US: Elsevier Academic Press.

Jost, J. T. (2017). Ideological asymmetries and the essence of political psychology. Political Psychology, 38, 167-208.

Jost, J. T., Hennes, E. P., & Lavine, H. (2013). ‘Hot’ political cognition: Its self-, group-, and system-serving purposes. In D. Carlston (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of social cognition (pp. 851-875). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.

Jost, J. T., Nosek, B. A., & Gosling, S. D. (2008). Ideology: Its resurgence in social, personality, and political psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 126-136.

Jun, S.-P., Yoo, H. S., & Choi S. (2018). Ten years of research change using Google Trends: From the perspective of big data utilizations and applications. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 130, 69-87.

Kamiejski, R., Guimond, S., De Oliveira, P., Er-rafiy, A., & Brauer, M. (2012). Le modèle républicain d’intégration: Iimplications pour la psychologie des relations entre groups [The republican model of integration: Implications for the psychology of intergroup relations]. L’année Psychologique, 112, 49-83. Retrieved from

Kessler, T., Proch, J., Hechler, S., & Nägler, L. A. (2015). Political diversity versus stimuli diversity: Alternative ways to improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e148.

Kteily, N. S., Rocklage, M. D., McClanahan, K., & Ho, A. K. (2019). Political ideology shapes the amplification of the accomplishments of disadvantaged vs. advantaged group members. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116, 1559-1568.

Kwiatkowski, D., Phillips, P. C. B., Schmidt, P., & Shin, Y. (1992). Testing the null hypothesis of stationarity against the alternative of a unit root: How sure are we that economic time series have a unit root? Journal of Econometrics, 54, 159-178.

Landau, M. J., Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., Cohen, F., Pyszczynski, T., Arndt, J., . . . Cook, A. (2004). Deliver us from evil: The effects of mortality salience and reminders of 9/11 on support for President George W. Bush. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1136-1150.

Lucas, B. J., & Kteily, N. S. (2018). (Anti-)egalitarianism differentially predicts empathy for members of advantaged versus disadvantaged groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114, 665-692.

Marzouki, Y., & Oullier, O. (2012, July 17). Revolutionizing revolutions: Virtual collective consciousness and the Arab Spring. HuffPost. Retrieved from

Marzouki, Y., & Oullier, O. (2014). Internet search volume as a proxy approach to the Virtual Collective Consciousness. In A. D. Cheok (Ed.), Hyperconnectivity and the future of Internet communication (p. 30-58). Balti, Moldova: Lambert.

Nail, P. R., McGregor, I., Drinkwater, A. E., Steele, G. M., & Thompson, A. W. (2009). Threat causes liberals to think like conservatives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 901-907.

Napier, J. L., Huang, J., Vonasch, A. J., & Bargh, J. A. (2017). Superheroes for change: Physical safety promotes socially (but not economically) progressive attitudes among conservatives. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 187-195.

Neuman, W. R., Guggenheim, L., Jang, S. M., & Bae, S. Y. (2014). The dynamics of public attention: Agenda-setting theory meets big data. Journal of Communication, 64, 193-214.

Nugier, A., Roebroeck, E., Anier, N., Kleinlogel, E., Chatard, A., & Guimond, S. (2016). The psychological effects of terrorism are moderated by cultural worldviews International Review of Social Psychology, 29, 77–84.

Nugier, A., Oppin, M., Cohu, M., Kamiejski, R., Roebroeck, E., & Guimond, S. (2016). « Nouvelle Laïcité » en France et pression normative envers les minorités Musulmanes [Secularism in France and Normative Pressure against Muslim minorities]. International Review of Social Psychology, 29, 15-30.

Onraet, E., van Hiel, A., & Cornelis, I. (2013). Threat and right‐wing attitudes: A cross‐national approach. Political Psychology, 34, 791-803.

Osborne, J. W. (2010). Improving your data transformations: Applying the Box-Cox transformation. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 15, article 12. Retrieved from

Preis, T., Reith, D., & Stanley, H. E. (2010). Complex dynamics of our economic life on different scales: Insights from search engine query data. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 368, 707-5719.

Proch, J., Elad‐Strenger, J., & Kessler, T. (2019) Liberalism and Conservatism, for a Change! Rethinking the Association Between Political Orientation and Relation to Societal Change. Political Psychology.

Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2003). In the wake of 9/11: Rising above the terror. In T. Pyszczynski, S. Solomon, & J. Greenberg, In the wake of 9/11: The psychology of terror (pp. 189-198). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

R Core Team (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. (Version 3.5) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from

Richard, F. D., Bond, C. F., & Stokes-Zoota, J. J. (2003). One hundred years of social psychology quantitatively described. Review of General Psychology, 7, 331-363.

Ripley, B., Venables, B., Bates, D., Hornik, K., Gebhardt, A., & Firth, D. (2018). MASS: Support Functions and Datasets for Venables and Ripley's MASS. R package version 7.3.

Roebroeck, E., & Guimond, S. (2015). Schooling, citizen-making, and anti-immigrant prejudice in France. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(2), 20-42.

Roebroeck, E., & Guimond, S. (2018). Intergroup threat, social dominance and the malleability of ideology: The importance of conceptual replication. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 134-149.

Rosenblatt, A., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., & Lyon, D. (1989). Evidence for terror management theory: I. The effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who violate or uphold cultural values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 681-690.

Schielzeth, H., & Nakagawa, S. (2013). Nested by design: Model fitting and interpretation in a mixed model era. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4, 14-24.

Shapiro, S. S., & Wilk, M. B. (1965). An analysis of variance test for normality (complete samples). Biometrika, 52, 591-611.

Tetreault, C. (2013). Cultural citizenship in France and le Bled among teens of pan-southern immigrant heritage. Language & Communication, 33, 532-543.

The jamovi project (2019). jamovi (Version 0.9) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from

Trapletti, A., Hornik, K., LeBaron, B., & Hornik, M. K. (2018). tseries: Time Series Analysis and Computational Finance. R package version 0.10.

van Prooijen, J.-W., & Acker, M. (2015). The influence of control on belief in conspiracy theories: Conceptual and applied extensions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 29, 753-761.

Vasilopoulos, P., Marcus, G. E., & Foucault, M. (2018). Emotional responses to the Charlie Hebdo attacks: Addressing the authoritarianism puzzle. Political Psychology, 39, 557-575.

Vauchez, S. H., & Valentin, V. (2014). L’affaire Baby Loup ou la nouvelle laïcité [The Baby Loup case: An illustration of new secularism]. Paris, France: LGDJ.

Weise, D. R., Arciszewski, T., Verlhiac, J. F., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2012). Terror management and attitudes toward immigrants. European Psychologist, 17, 63-72.

Winegard, B. M., Clark, C. J., Hasty, C. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2019). Low-status groups as a domain of liberal bias. Manuscript submitted for publication. Preprint available at

Winegard, B., Winegard, B., & Geary, D. C. (2015). Too paranoid to see progress: Social psychology is probably liberal, but it doesn't believe in progress. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e162.





PDF views