The Logic of Fear - Populism and Media Coverage of Immigrant Crimes

76 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2019

See all articles by Mathieu Couttenier

Mathieu Couttenier

University of Claude Bernard Lyon 1

Sophie Hatte

ENS de Lyon

Mathias Thoenig

University of Lausanne; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Stephanos Vlachos

Department of Economics, University of Vienna

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2019

Abstract

We study how news coverage of immigrant criminality impacted municipality-level votes in the November 2009 "minaret ban" referendum in Switzerland. The campaign, successfully led by the populist Swiss People's Party, played aggressively on fears of Muslim immigration and linked Islam with terrorism and violence. We combine an exhaustive violent crime detection dataset with detailed information on crime coverage from 12 newspapers. The data allow us to quantify the extent of pre-vote media bias in the coverage of migrant criminality. We then estimate a theory-based voting equation in the cross-section of municipalities. Exploiting random variations in crime occurrences, we find a first-order, positive effect of news coverage on political support for the minaret ban. Counterfactual simulations show that, under a law forbidding newspapers to disclose a perpetrator's nationality, the vote in favor of the ban would have decreased by 5 percentage points (from 57.6% to 52.6%).

Keywords: Immigration, populism, Violent Crimes, Vote

JEL Classification: D72, K42, L82, Z12

Suggested Citation

Couttenier, Mathieu and Hatte, Sophie and Thoenig, Mathias and Vlachos, Stephanos, The Logic of Fear - Populism and Media Coverage of Immigrant Crimes (January 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13496, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3328507

Mathieu Couttenier (Contact Author)

University of Claude Bernard Lyon 1 ( email )

43 Bl du 11 novembre 1918
Lyon, Villeurbanne cedex 69622
France

Sophie Hatte

ENS de Lyon ( email )

Lyon
France

Mathias Thoenig

University of Lausanne ( email )

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Stephanos Vlachos

Department of Economics, University of Vienna ( email )

Oskar-Morgenstern-Platz 1
Vienna, Vienna 1090
Austria

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