The Political Cost of Being Soft on Crime: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

43 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2016 Last revised: 5 Sep 2019

See all articles by Francesco Drago

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS

Francesco Sobbrio

Luiss Guido Carli University; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Date Written: August 10, 2019

Abstract

This study analyses voters' response to criminal justice policies by exploiting a natural experiment. The 2006 Italian Collective Pardon Bill, designed and promoted by the incumbent center-left (CL) coalition, unexpectedly released about one-third of the prison population, creating idiosyncratic incentives to recidivate across pardoned individuals. Municipalities where resident pardoned individuals had a higher incentive to recidivate experienced a higher recidivism rate. We show that in those municipalities voters "punished'' the CL coalition in the 2008 parliamentary elections. A one standard deviation increase in the incentive to recidivate-corresponding to an increase of recidivism of 15.9 percent-led to a 3.06 percent increase in the margin of victory of the center-right (CR) coalition in the post-pardon national elections (2008) relative to the last election before the pardon (2006). We also provide evidence of newspapers being more likely to report crime news involving pardoned individuals and of voters hardening their views on the incumbent national government's ability to control crime. Our findings indicate that voters keep politicians accountable by conditioning their vote on the observed effects of public policies.

Keywords: Accountability, Voting, Natural Experiment, Crime, Recidivism, Media

JEL Classification: D72, K42

Suggested Citation

Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Sobbrio, Francesco, The Political Cost of Being Soft on Crime: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (August 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2875317 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2875317

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )

Piazza Pugliatti 1
Messina
Italy

Roberto Galbiati

Department of Economics, Sciences Po-CNRS ( email )

28 rue des saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Francesco Sobbrio (Contact Author)

Luiss Guido Carli University ( email )

Viale Romania 32
Rome, Roma 00197
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/francescosobbrio/

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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