Working papers

On war and political radicalization

Abstract.  This paper illustrates how a historical shock to political preferences can translate into observable electoral support as the political landscape evolves. During World War II, the Third Reich annexed the French eastern borderlands and their inhabitants were forcibly conscripted to the Wehrmacht. I first provide survey evidence of this mobilization reducing political trust. I then estimate the impact of incorporation on municipal level support for radical candidates and abstention in the 1965-2017 period. Identification exploits the fact that different birth cohorts were affected within the annexed regions by using eligible births as an instrument for conscription. In early elections when platforms are similar, both radical and moderate candidates are penalized where more men where conscripted, resulting in higher abstention. In late, polarized elections, incorporation increases support for radical candidates.

Keywords. War, political trust, polarization, radicalization

JEL classification. D72, N44, F51, Z13

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THE LOGIC OF FEAR - Populism & Media Coverage of Immigrants Crimes -

with M. Couttenier, S. Hatte, and M. Thoenig, CEPR Discussion Paper Series DP 13496

Abstract. We study how news coverage of immigrant criminality impacted municipality-level votes in the November 2009 “minaret ban” referendum in Switzerland. The campaign, successfully led by the populist Swiss People’s Party, played aggressively on fears of Muslim immigration and linked Islam with terrorism and violence. We combine an exhaustive violent crime detection dataset with detailed information on crime coverage from 12 newspapers. This data allows us to quantify the extent of pre-vote media bias in the coverage of migrant criminality. We then estimate a theory-based voting equation in the cross-section of municipalities. Exploiting random variations in crime occurrences, we find a first-order, positive effect of news coverage on political support for the minaret ban. Counterfactual simulations show that, under a law forbidding newspapers to disclose a perpetrator’s nationality, the vote in favor of the ban would have decreased by 5 percentage points (from 57.6% to 52.6%).

Keywords. Media, violent crime, immigration, vote, populism

JEL classification. D72, L82, Z12, K42

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Work in progress

Technological innovations in electoral campaigns: Direct canvassing and partisan mobilization

with J. Buggle

Abstract. Despite the opportunities that technological innovations offer to reach an ever-growing audience, traditional means to access the electorate, such as direct canvassing, are widely used. In this paper we argue that the main reason direct canvassing persists as a campaign strategy is because it is a very efficient mean to mobilize voters that are already supportive of a candidate's program. To test our hypothesis, we exploit a unique historical context: in 1896, due to limited funding, the Democratic Presidential candidate adopted an unprecedented campaign strategy by using the railroad to go on a national speaking tour. We make use of the railroad network to draw causal inference of the impact of direct canvassing on the electoral outcome. Results indicate that the Democratic candidate obtained significantly more votes in places where he gave a speech. We then exploit political competition in the House of Representatives election to disentangle between votes gained from persuasion and mobilization. The electoral gain of the Democratic candidate can be decomposed into 65% from increased mobilization of his electorate, and 35% from persuading Republicans.

Keywords. Electoral campaigns, mobilization, persuasion, political competition

JEL classification. D72, N41, N71, P48

The long-run consequences of extractive institutions: Economic Aryanization

with J. Senn

Abstract. This paper investigates the channels through which extractive institutions affect development. We test the hypothesis that extractive institutions reduce competition, which in turn reduces the incentives of firms to innovate, and eventually slows down growth (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012). During the German occupation of France in WWII, the policy of «Economic Aryanazation» was introduced. The purpose of this policy was to exclude the Jewish population from any economic activity. Variation in this set-up comes from the «Demarcation line», the line separating France into the Occupied (North-West), and «Free» (SE) zones for 2.5 years. The initial drawing of this line was so imprecise, that the authorities of the «Free» zone had to wait several months before learning where the border was fixed (Alary, 2003).