On war and political radicalization

Stephanos Vlachos

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 into the Wehrmacht. In the first stage, survey data is used to show how this forced conscription reduced political trust. Municipality-level data and political discourse data are then combined to estimate the impact of conscription on support for radical candidates and on abstention in elections during the 1965-2017 period. Identification exploits the fact that different birth cohorts were affected in each annexed region by using eligible births as an instrument for conscription. In earlier elections in which platforms were more similar, both radical and moderate candidates were penalized in municipalities where more men were conscripted, resulting in higher abstention. In more recent elections, which were more polarized, conscription increased support for radical candidates.

Department of Economics
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Austrian Fields of Science 2012
Political economy
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