Politicizing Religion: The Impact of Religious Institutions on Voting in Israel
28 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2017 Last revised: 28 Sep 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2017
Religious organization are a vital part of political life in many countries, including the Middle East. In this paper, I examine the impact of religious institutions on local voting behavior in Israel. Using a novel data set, I examine the association between the timing of entry of Jewish religious study and prayer groups into neighborhoods, and the local voting patterns for all Israeli national elections between 1977 and 2009. I find that the entry of a religious institution is associated with a sharp polarization of voting patterns, with a 4 percentage point increase in vote share for non-centrist parties. I then examine mechanisms for this result by attempting to distinguish between three channels: endogenous entry of the religious institutions, selective migration in response to their entry, and evolving views of existing residents. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, I propose that the primary mechanism is due to changing views of existing residents, with a more limited eect through entry of extremists and exit of moderates from the neighborhood.
Keywords: Israel, voting, religion, backlash, politicize
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