Felix Jäger
Security vs. Civil Liberties: How citizens cope with threat, restriction and ideology

12th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association, Prague, June 23rd to June 25th, 2022

Civil liberties and security are both of high importance for citizens in democratic societies. However, trade-offs between the two rights must be made as they contradict each other. In this study I will investigate citizens attitudes towards the norm conflict at the specific example of surveillance policies to prevent terrorism. Citizens can not only become the target of an attack, but also of the counter-terrorism policy which interferes with their freedom. This balancing issue is set in the context of increasing polarization over political ideology within Western democracies. While terrorist attacks are conducted to transport a political message, its counterpart the surveillance measure are debated and established by political actors. This becomes important as citizens carry an ideology themselves which brings them closer to one of these actors or further away. How do citizens balance their preferences for civil liberties and security in the context of political polarization? Using an original survey experiment conducted in Germany, I will show how the four factors (feeling threatened by a terrorist attack, becoming targeted by a surveillance measure, ideology behind an attack and ideology of counteracting politicians) influence the attitudes of citizens and whether these factors are conditional on each other. First, this paper contributes to the terrorism literature with the examination of terrorists’ ideology as an influential factor for citizens attitudes. Second, the results extend our understanding of political polarization and its strength in a context where citizens prefer a policy but have an aversion towards the political actor.