The terrorist acts did not create more fear

Few Norwegians feared new attacks in the aftermath of 22 July. – The terror attacks have not created a fearful society, says Dag Wollebæk.

Dag Wollebæk, Bernard Enjolras, Kari Steen-Johnsen og Guro Ødegård have studied the consequences of July’s terror attacks in Oslo and Utøya. Their findings are presented in the latest issue of «Political Science & Politics».

The researchers compared reactions to the terror attacks in Norway to a similar study carried out in the United States after the Oklahoma City terror attack in 1995. The Oklahoma attack was chosen for comparison as it was perpetrated by a right-wing extremist who was arrested shortly after, a similar situation to that in Norway.

After the Oklahoma City bombing, 38 % of the survey respondents said they were very concerned about the possibility of new attacks, with a further 40 % saying they were somewhat concerned. When Norwegians were asked the same questions after 22 July, only 2.5 % of those surveyed said they were very concerned, and 17 % said they were somewhat concerned.

- This shows that the terrorist acts have not created a fearful society in Norway, says Wollebæk.

The Norwegian society was not to the same extent as the American characterised by a culture of fear prior to the attacks, which may explain the different results, believes Wollebæk.

- On the contrary, there is a strong relationship between interpersonal and institutional trust in Norway. We have a basic belief that most people have good intensions and that the authorities are able to prevent further terrorist attacks.

- Very few of the people we asked expressed a lack of faith in the authorities’ ability to prevent additional terrorist attacks. In fact, trust in our institutions, especially the government, increased in the aftermath of 22 July, says Wollebæk.

Public opinion may however have changed as criticism towards the police has increased since the research was carried out in August 2011, adds Wollebæk.

Not afraid

- 45 % claimed the Norwegian society was characterised by slightly more fear after the attacks, but only 3 % thought there was “a lot more” fear. If more people felt scared, this number would be a lot higher, says Wollebæk.

He believes these statistics are significant.

- An absence of fear is vital in order to walk around freely without taking too many precautions, something that is an important part of maintaining the high level of trust in the long run.

Wollebæk does not support the theory that Norway lost its innocence on 22 July 2011.

- Norwegians have not become more fearful or cynical in dealing with each other or institutions, nor have they withdrawn from public life. The atrocities could have introduced an element of insecurity and fear into everyday life, but instead there remains a high degree of trust between members of society

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Av Lén-Veronica Kongerud (
Publisert 26. jan. 2012 08:32