Civic engagement in Norway after 22 July atrocities

Young people between the ages 16 and 24 have become more engaged after the terror attacks on 22 July. – The current mobilisation may lead to increased political participation in the future, says Guro Ødegård at the Centre for Research on Voluntary Sector and Civil Society.

Instead of being characterised by divisions and conflicts, civil society in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks seems more mobilised, engaged and trusting. Dag Wollebæk, Bernard Enjolras, Kari Steen-Johnsen and Guro Ødegård have looked into consequences of the attacks  on the Norwegian civil society.

Youth engagement

Many have speculated about the effect the terror will have on political engagement and participation. Guro Ødegård says that young people, more so than elderly, have become mobilised through voluntary organisations in the aftermath of the attacks.

- Looking at the population as a whole, the levels of engagement remain relatively stable - excep amongst young adults between 16 and 24. Whilst 12 per cent of these have become less engaged, 18 per cent have become more engaged.

The potential effects of  22 July; on the local elections in September have been subject of the Norwegian public debate.

- The number of people likely to vote has increased since the attacks. The proportion  who doesn’t know if they will vote or who they will vote for, has decreased from 21 per cent to 13 per cent, meaning more people have decided to participate in the election. This increase is most significant amongst young people, says Ødegård. 

However, the amount of young people who identify with a particular political party has not changed.

- An increased will to vote may therefore be a way of expressing support for democracy itself since 22 July, rather than supporting one particular party. In other words, 22 July may have given young people a reason to vote.

- If more young people vote in the local election, it may lead to increased political participation in the long term. The earlier people participate, the likelier it is that they will carry this pattern of participation with them throughout their lives. 

Influential tool of information

The influence of social media has been clearly demonstrated since the attacks. Many individuals and organisations used Facebook to inform about the rose marches across the country. 44 per cent said they first heard of the rose marches through Facebook whilst 30 per cent said it was through traditional media.

Kari Steen-Johnsen says social media, particularly Facebook, allows for a wider mobilisation than previously possible through organisations or mass media.

- Through Facebook you normally don’t communicate only with your closest friends but with a lot of people you may not know that well. These people are in turn connected to their own networks. Networks connect with other networks, explains Steen-Johnsen.

A new form of mobilisation via social media has taken place in the Norwegian society, particularly with younger people.

- The mass mobilisation in the aftermath of 22 July demonstrates the massive power lying within social media. Facebook and its equivalents will continue to be central tools for mobilisation in Norway. Facebook makes it possible for individuals to take initiative and mobilise power in their cause.

Increased trust

The terror attacks have increased trust between people and in institutions, especially the government and Parliament. 52 per cent  report  increasing levels of trust since the attacks whilst only 23 per cent have become  sceptical.

- As expected, trust between close relations has not changed. It is the trust in strangers or people we vaguely know that has increased. We find a high increase in trust in other Norwegians, which is connected to the national mobilisation of communities since the attacks, says Dag Wollebæk.

- Since 22 July Norwegians have become conscious about greeting each other with trust instead of fear. We remain closer than before. The purpose of terrorism is to spread fear, anxiety and scepticism. What we have already seen is that these aims have been unsuccessful.     

The results from the research is presented in the paper Hva gjør terroren med oss som sivilsamfunn?»(How do the terror attacks affect the civil society) 


Av Trude Løw Hansen (
Publisert 2. sep. 2011 12:23 - Sist endret 11. des. 2017 11:14