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The Rise and Fall of Populism and Extremism

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EXTREME (The Rise and Fall of Populism and Extremism)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

In recent years in advanced democracies, there has been a wave of electoral successes of populist politicians supporting extreme messages. Is populism caused by negative economic shocks? If so, what are the mechanisms? What explains heterogeneity in responses to such shocks? In this project, I will test empirically if personal experiences, information environment, and their interaction with aggregate economic shocks shape people’s political decisions. The project consists of three parts.
First, we study how personal employment histories, potentially affected by globalization and technological shocks, individual predispositions, and information environment influenced voting for Trump. We are using a unique database of more than 40 million resumes for the period 2000-2016, the largest available repository of resumes of job-seekers in the US, and match it with commuting zone-level economic and voting variables. We then use occupational transition matrix to compute average levels of career values in a location and relate it to voting behavior.
Second, we study how negative social experiences during the formative years affect subsequent labor market outcomes, antisocial behavior, and the support of the populist agenda. We examine how corporal punishment in schools in the UK and the US affected subsequent educational attainment, employment, antisocial behavior, and voting. We digitized the archival records on regulations and practices of corporal punishment in different educational authorities in the UK during 1970-80s and collected the data on corporal punishment regulations in the United States. We now aim to combine it with contemporary outcomes and running our own survey to differentiate between the mechanisms.
Third, we examine what makes people actively resist extremist regimes even when it is associated with high personal costs. We study a historical example of resistance to the Nazi regime in Germany during WWII, which provides a unique methodological opportunity to study determinants of resistance to extremism in a high stake environment. We use a self-collected dataset on treason cases to measure resistance, combining it with data on bombing and exposure to foreign propaganda.
For subproject C, we collected the data on treason cases, BBC radio signal strength, daily bombing, wartime daily weather, and grid-cell level data for the destruction of Berlin. We also digitized USSBS, unique historical data from the anonymous survey, conducted by US Occupying Forces in the summer of 1945. The key empirical problem with this project is the identification, as bombing and domestic opposition could be driven by the same omitted factors. We overcome this problem by using two complementary empirical approaches: first, we use a regression discontinuity design, using the maximum B-17 range as a source of discontinuity. Second, we use an instrumental variable approach and predict daily bombing by daily weather characteristics. Our results confirm that indeed, on average, bombing led to higher levels of domestic opposition and lower morale of German pilots; moreover, this effect was stronger for places with better reception of BBC radio. The results of our analysis have been written down as a draft, which was published as a SSRN Working Paper.
For subproject B, we collected the data and conducted a preliminary empirical analysis based on regulations. However, a key issue with this project is to make sure that the corporal punishment regulations were indeed binding and to investigate potential mechanisms. Thus, we prepared a questionnaire for the survey to look at these issues to be run in the Fall of 2020.
For subproject A, we collected the data and find some preliminary results for the impact of economic shocks (automation) on voting and related economic outcomes. We are going to finalize the data collection and describe the results in these coming months.
For Subproject C, our main contribution is to document and quantify the impact of bombing and foreign radio on domestic opposition and morale during the deadliest military conflict in history. Our paper underlines the potential for air attack by the enemy to undermine the people’s support. Our study casts a new light on the effective strategies against the dictatorial governments, and it underlines the role of radio propaganda as a potential substitute for bombing.
For Subproject A, the contribution is to combine aggregate shocks with individual-level data on economic shocks and predispositions, in order to explain the mechanisms of the growth of populism support. The project differs from the previous literature in several ways: (i) it considers the effect of economic shocks on both contemporaneous outcomes and future career values; (ii) it uses individual-level variables, together with aggregate-level shocks, to study the mechanisms behind the effects in more details, and (iii) it disaggregates the impact of economic shocks on economic outcomes and voting by demographics, to study in detail the origins of the populist support and heterogeneity of the relationship between economic shocks and populism.
For Subproject B, the findings can help us to understand the roots of populism support, but they could also have broader policy implications. Many people, including education practitioners in the richest countries in the world, still support corporal punishment. Around 70% of the American population, for example, supports corporal punishment (General Social Survey 2010). According to the YouGov survey, 42% of Brexit supporters would like to have corporal punishment back to UK schools. In the United States, 19 states have regulations that allow schools to use corporal punishment. This implies that the topic is still on public agenda and is highly relevant. Any causal study of the long-term consequences of corporal punishment would be informative for the policymakers.