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Terror attacks and culturally charged events shift political opinion on Twitter and increase electoral support for far-right parties. (Reuters)
Terror attacks and culturally charged events shift political opinion on Twitter and increase electoral support for far-right parties. (Reuters)

Big shocks drive populism on Twitter

Using data of more than 178,000 Twitter users in Germany, the authors show that unprecedented terrorist attacks and major crime events shift the language of peoples’ tweets closer to that of the German far-right party

MUMBAI : As Covid-19 spreads across countries, so have xenophobic sentiments. Several reports of racist attacks directed at Asians have emerged in the West. In several cities in India, people from the northeastern part of the country have faced attacks.

These attacks may be temporary and could die down over time but unanticipated threats, particularly those linked to other races, often trigger xenophobic populism among people, a new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) research authored by Francesco Giavazzi and others, suggests.

Using data of more than 178,000 Twitter users in Germany, the authors show that unprecedented terrorist attacks and major crime events shift the language of peoples’ tweets closer to that of the German far-right party—Alternative for Germany (AfD).

This includes increased use of words such as crime, ambush, Islamization, migrant and border control.

The authors suggest that large-scale acts of crime and terrorism attributed to immigrants bring cultural differences to the fore and build hostility towards different religions and races.

Such events spark hidden fears and boost support for parties promoting isolationism and cultural conservatism, the authors write. The authors also find a significant connection between online behaviour and political outcomes.

The authors find that major terrorist or culturally-charged events cause a significant and more lasting shift in the language of tweets, and this goes beyond mere outrage.

The increase of racist words on Twitter is also linked to higher votes for the AfD, the authors show. Political parties promoting isolationism and cultural conservatism stand to gain from such events, the study shows.

Also read: Terrorist attacks, cultural incidents and the vote for radical parties: Analyzing text from Twitter

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