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

61 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2019

See all articles by Francesco Drago

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR

Roberto Galbiati

Sciences Po

Francesco Sobbrio

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

Multiple version iconThere are 5 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2018

Abstract

We study voters’ response to criminal justice policies by exploiting a natural experiment. The Italian collective pardon, promoted and implemented by the national government in 2006, unexpectedly released about one third of the prison population. The collective pardon law created 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 incumbent national government in the 2008 parliamentary elections. In particular, our estimates suggest that - in an average municipality – an additional crime by pardoned individuals led to a drop of 272 votes (1.77% of eligible voters) for the incumbent national government relative to the opposition coalition. We also provide evidence of newspapers being more likely to report crime news involving pardoned individuals and of voters holding worse beliefs 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 their policies.

Keywords: accountability, retrospective voting, natural experiment, crime, recidivism, media

JEL Classification: D720; K420

Suggested Citation

Drago, Francesco and Galbiati, Roberto and Sobbrio, Francesco, The Political Cost of Being Soft on Crime: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (November 2018). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6826, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3129976

Francesco Drago

University of Messina, CSEF & CEPR ( email )

Piazza Pugliatti 1
Messina
Italy

Roberto Galbiati

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
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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