Yale study finds victims' relatives may be motivated by GOP hardline on terrorism
Relatives of 9/11 victims have stepped up their political activity since the attack more than other New Yorkers have and have become a bit more Republican, a Yale university researcher has found.
His study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that when compared to a control group, families of victims - and even victims' neighbors, to a lesser degree - have voted more often in general elections and primaries.
Families also have donated more heavily to federal political campaigns, the study found. And victims' relatives and neighbors who changed party affiliation were more likely to switch to the GOP, it found.
"The result is a clear indication that 9/11 catalyzed long-lasting political changes among those most affected, making them more active in politics, more partisan and more supportive of the political right," Yale political scientist Eitan Hersh wrote in the paper.
The difference between the families and the control group was between 1 and 5 percentage points in most cases, and Hersh acknowledged in an interview that the findings in some years since the attack were not significant.
However, he said, "a few percentage points can make a difference in elections, especially primaries, where so few people are voting."
Leonie Huddy, a political science professor and director of the Center for Survey Research at Stony Brook University, said the increase in political activity was "small, but in a certain direction."
For 9/11 families, she said, "There was this massive event, and some of them have decided they need to become somewhat more active because their lives have been touched by what was essentially not just a personal tragedy but a political event."
As for party registration, Huddy suggested that all New Yorkers, including the control group, may have shifted toward the Republican Party after 9/11, especially for the 2004 presidential election.
"There's some evidence that New York and New Jersey voted more Republican than would have been expected, and some feel terrorism is the reason," she said.
Hersh studied New York registered voter records from 2001 and found 1,181 victims of the 9/11 attacks among them. He then identified household members and neighbors and used other public records to determine when they voted and made political contributions. He formed a control group of New Yorkers who were similar in many ways including prior political activity, but without a relative or neighbor killed.
The study was limited to New York residents and did not include family members of victims from elsewhere.
Hersh said such a study wouldn't have been possible until recently "because of improvements in public records and computational power."
Huddy called the approach "novel and creative." However, she pointed out that party registration records don't reveal how people actually voted.
"We can't know unless we talk to them," she said.