Silent sympathy: News attention, subtle support for far-right extremism, and negative attitudes toward Muslims

Helena Knupfer, Ruta Kaskeleviciute, Jörg Matthes

Right-wing terrorist (RWT) incidents targeting Muslims have become more frequent and news reporting about these incidents can trigger a variety of cognitions and behaviors in audiences. While some studies report more tolerance and openness in response to RWT, hate crimes against minorities can increase in their aftermath. To date, we know little about the associations between following news reporting about RWT and attitudes toward Muslims as one of the main target groups of modern RWT. Using a young, quota-based German sample (aged 16–25, N = 865), we build on Terror Management and Social Identity Theory to shed light on the relationships between attention to RWT in the media, threat attributed to RWT, and negative attitudes toward Muslims. Additionally, a measure of subtle support for far-right extremist stances (SSE) was included, accounting for moderation effects. Results suggested that attention to RWT was positively related to perceived threat. This association was weaker in individuals with higher levels of SSE. Attributing more threat was associated with less negative attitudes toward Muslims, independent of SSE. Media attention only had a (positive) association with negative attitudes in individuals with moderate to high levels of SSE. Implications and limitations are discussed.

Department of Communication
Terrorism and Political Violence
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
508007 Communication science
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality, Political Science and International Relations, Sociology and Political Science, Safety Research
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
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