Does local exposure to refugees affect right-wing support and anti-immigrant sentiments? This paper studies the allocation of refugees to the rural hinterlands of Eastern Germany during the refugee crisis of 2015. Similar to non-urban regions elsewhere, the area has seen a major shift towards the political right, despite minimal previous exposure to foreigners. We draw on electoral records and original data collected among 1,320 German citizens from 236 municipalities, half of which received refugees. Two conditions allow for causal identification: a policy allocating refugees following strict administrative rules, and a matching procedure rendering treated and control municipalities statistically indistinguishable. Our survey and behavioral measures confirm the presence of widespread anti-immigrant sentiments, but these are entirely unaffected by the presence of refugees in respondents' hometowns. If anything, local exposure to refugees served as a `reality check', pulling both right- and left-leaning individuals more towards the center.
Voter mobilization in the echo chamber: Broadband internet and the rise of populism in Europe. Under review (with D. Morisi). Working paper.
Can the diffusion of broadband internet explain the recent success of populist parties in Europe? Populists cultivate an anti-elitist communication style, which, they claim, directly connects them with ordinary people. The internet therefore appears to be the perfect tool for populist leaders. In this study, we show that this notion holds up to rigorous empirical testing. Building on survey data from Italy and Germany, we find a positive correlation at the individual level between use of the internet as the main source of political information and voting for populist parties, but not for other, mainstream parties. We then demonstrate that this relationship is causal with an instrumental variable strategy, instrumenting internet use with broadband coverage at the municipality level. Our findings suggest that part of the rise of populism can be attributed to the effect of online tools and communication strategies made possible by the proliferation of broadband access.
Does poverty reduce political participation? Causal evidence from the sequencing of bank working days.
Does poverty reduce political participation? The negative link between low socio-economic status and all forms of political participation is a classic finding dating back to the early days of empirical political science. However, producing causal evidence demonstrating that poverty per se – rather than the low education levels or general lack of resources that usually accompany poverty – causes the observed drop in participation has proven exceedingly difficult. This paper revisits the debate, drawing on new research that highlights the deleterious psychological effects of poverty and using a novel instrument that allows for causal inference. I exploit the fact that the effective length of months varies in an unpredictable fashion depending on the distribution of bank working days throughout the year. This means that individuals in certain months will have to make do with the same salary for up to three days longer. Among the relatively poor, these additional days cause a marked increase in financial difficulties, especially towards the end of the month. I analyze the causal effect of this type of short-term poverty. Using data from over 3 mio individuals and 260 elections in Germany, I document reductions in both turnout intentions and turnout. Effect sizes are substantial, ranging between 1 and 4 percentage points. The findings have important implications for the scheduling of election days and the political representation of the poor.
Rebel recruitment and migration in Senegal’s Casamance region . Data collection in progress (with D. Auer and R. Koopmans).
We investigate whether the threat of voluntary and forced recruitment by rebel groups spurs international migration. We study the case of the Casamance in southern Senegal, which, since the 1980s, has been affected by low-level warfare between the rebels of the MFDC (Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance) and government troops. The case is interesting because violence was highly localized in certain areas but not others, so that we are able to compare affected regions with comparable regions nearby. The hypothesis is that in areas where rebels are active, families will push for the migration of their youths to avoid having them recruited – voluntarily or forcefully – by the rebels. Several specific hypotheses follow: First, we would expect higher overall numbers of migrants from areas affected by violence, although the wealth reducing effect of conflict may have a dampening effect on this trend. Second, qualitative research indicates that migrants favor youths aged 19-22 as recruits. We should therefore see particularly young migrants from the areas with families trying to move their youths out of the rebels reach before they enter this age bracket. Third, rebels recruit both young men and women. While the explicit sending away of women is not common in the region studied – if women go, they have to do so in secret – in areas affected by rebel recruitment we would expect that women, too, are explicitly send abroad.
Diaspora, historical memory and political activism in Armenia. Data collection in progress (with R. Hakimov).