London attacks made liberals negative towards Muslims

London, Dec 17 (IANS) The July 7, 2005, London bombings have drastically changed the attitudes of liberals toward Muslims and immigrants, and these have become more like those of conservatives, new research shows.

Data from two nationally representative surveys of British citizens revealed that feelings of national loyalty increased and endorsement of equality decreased among political liberals following the terrorist attack.

“Our findings show that terrorism shifts public attitudes towards greater loyalty to the in-group, less concern with fairness, and greater prejudice against Muslims and immigrants,” explained psychological scientists from the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent.

But it seems that this effect is stronger on those who are politically Left-leaning than those who are right-leaning.

“The overall impact is to create a climate in which it may be harder to promote or sustain intergroup tolerance, inclusiveness and trust,” said Julie Van de Vyver, one of the authors on the study.

The researchers analysed newly available data from two nationally representative surveys, conducted about six weeks before and one month after the July 7, 2005, bombings in London.

The bombings, which occurred on public transport, killed 52 people and injured 770.

As expected, attitudes towards Muslims and toward immigrants were more negative following the attacks than before, but only among liberals while conservatives’ views stayed relatively constant.

Thus, liberals’ attitudes seemed to shift toward those of conservatives following the bombings.

This increased prejudice was accounted for by changes in liberals’ moral foundations.vt

Specifically, liberals showed an increase in in-group loyalty and a decrease in fairness, and these shifts accounted for their negative attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants.

The results show that people’s moral perspectives are not necessarily constant — they can change according to the immediate context.

Based on these findings, the researchers argue that terrorist attacks may ultimately lead conservatives to consolidate their existing priorities, making them resistant to change.

At the same time, such attacks may prompt a shift in liberals’ priorities toward more prejudiced attitudes.

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

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