Radio and the Rise of the Nazis in Prewar Germany
60 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013
Date Written: April 2013
How far can the media undermine democratic institutions, and how persuasive can media be in ensuring public support for a dictators policies? We study this question in the context of Germany between 1929 and 1939. Using quasi-random geographical variation in radio availability, we show that radio had a significant negative effect on the Nazi vote share between 1930 and 1933, when political news had an anti-Nazi slant. In 1933, this negative effect was fully undone in just one month, after the Nazis seized control of the radio and initiated pro-Nazi radio propaganda campaign. Radio also helped the Nazis to enroll new party members and encouraged denunciations of Jews and other open expressions of anti-Semitism after the Nazis fully consolidated power. Nazi radio propaganda was most effective when combined with other propaganda tools, such as Hitlers speeches, and when the message was aligned with listeners prior beliefs as measured by historical anti-Semitism.
Keywords: Anti-semitism, dictatorship, media, Nazis, propaganda, unconsolidated democracy
JEL Classification: D7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation