November 25, 2021, 11:00–12:30
Room Auditorium 4
Behavior, Institutions, and Development seminar
Did mobile Internet contribute to the rise of populist, anti-elitist and non-traditional parties across Europe? In this paper, we use a combination of highly geographically disaggregated data on the spread of 3G and 4G mobile Internet in 22 countries in Europe since 2007, administrative data on national parliamentary elections across the 85,000 municipalities in these countries, and survey data on voting intentions and opinions, in order to bring this argument to empirical scrutiny and identify mechanisms of impact. We find evidence that mobile Internet is responsible for a sizeable fraction of the increase in vote for populist, right-wing parties in Europe, although the effect is largely concentrated in areas characterized by high levels of social and economic exclusion. Using information on party platforms, we present evidence that these parties hold radical positions along dimensions of in-group protection and exclusion of other groups and based on survey data we find that supporters of these parties hold views consistent with such platforms. More importantly, we present evidence that mobile-induced shifts in voting intentions happen simultaneously with a rise in voters' extreme positions on topics that pertain precisely to dimensions of exclusive versus inclusive societies. We use this evidence to argue that mobile Internet has a direct effect on ideologies and values, in turn feeding new political demands.