Voting Alone? The Political and Cultural Consequences of Commercial TV

61 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2013

See all articles by Ruben Durante

Ruben Durante

Catalan Institution of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA); Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Department of Economics and Business, Students

Paolo Pinotti

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

Andrea Tesei

Queen Mary University of London - School of Economics and Finance

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Date Written: June 6, 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 geo- morphological 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 (June 6, 2013). Paolo Baffi Centre Research Paper No. 2013-139, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2290523 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2290523

Ruben Durante (Contact Author)

Catalan Institution of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) ( email )

P/ Lluis Companys 23
Barcelona, 08010
Spain

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Department of Economics and Business, Students ( email )

Barcelona
Spain

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

Paolo Pinotti

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

Milano, 20136
Italy

Andrea Tesei

Queen Mary University of London - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://andreatesei.com

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