Voting Alone? The Political and Cultural Consequences of Commercial TV

62 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2013

See all articles by Ruben Durante

Ruben Durante

Sciences Po

Paolo Pinotti

Bocconi University - BAFFI Center on International Markets, Money, and Regulation

Andrea Tesei

Queen Mary, University of London

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 1, 2013

Abstract

We investigate the long-term impact of early exposure to Berlusconi’s commercial TV network, Mediaset, on voting behavior and civic engagement in Italy. To do so, we exploit differences in Mediaset signal reception across Italian municipalities due to the network’s staggered introduction over the national territory and to idiosyncratic geomorphological factors. We find that municipalities exposed to Mediaset prior to 1985 exhibit greater electoral support for Berlusconi’s party in 1994, when he first ran for office, relative to municipalities that were exposed only later on. This difference, estimated between 1 and 2 percentage points, is extremely robust and tends to persist in the following four elections. This effect can hardly be attributed to differential exposure to partisan news bias since, prior to 1985, content on Mediaset channels was dominated by light-entertainment programs and no news programs were broadcast until 1991, by which time the network was accessible to the entire population. Instead, we present evidence that early exposure to commercial TV was associated with a substantial decline in social capital consistent with the diffusion of a culture of individualism and civic disengagement that favored the political success of Berlusconi.

Keywords: mass media, voting, civic engagement

JEL Classification: L82, D72, Z13

Suggested Citation

Durante, Ruben and Pinotti, Paolo and Tesei, Andrea, Voting Alone? The Political and Cultural Consequences of Commercial TV (July 1, 2013). Paolo Baffi Centre Research Paper No. 2013-137. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2287882 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2287882

Ruben Durante

Sciences Po ( email )

28 rue des Saints-Peres
Paris, 75011
France
+33145497264 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.rubendurante.com

Paolo Pinotti (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - BAFFI Center on International Markets, Money, and Regulation ( email )

Milano, 20136
Italy

Andrea Tesei

Queen Mary, University of London ( email )

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Mile End Rd.
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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