A study found that violent acts meant to incite opposition to specific communities could, in fact, lead to widespread acceptance.
PNAS Nexus published the study.
New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study data was used by Joseph Bulbulia and colleagues to explore this topic. The study cited the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019.
It was the author’s intention to predict how much more tolerant people would be of Muslims if the attacks hadn’t happened. The three years following the attacks were used to compare these predictions with actual data collection efforts.
The study found that after an initial period of hostility toward Muslims, the attitudes of political liberals and moderates quickly warmed and then stabilized. Warmth toward Muslims not only rose, but maintained an upward trajectory, suggesting a particularly long-lasting impact among political conservatives, a group the extremist aimed to agitate.
The attack had the opposite effect on public opinion, particularly among conservatives, which was precisely the opposite of the extremist’s goal. Instead, long-term acceptance of Muslims was fostered, and social divisions were reduced, as a result of the attack.
From the research: “Overall, the attacks added five years of growth in Muslim acceptance, with no regression to preattack levels over time. Continued growth among conservatives highlights the attack’s failure to divide society.”
“These results demonstrate the utility of combining methods for causal inference with national-scale panel data to answer psychological questions of basic human concern.”