Friendship Networks and Political Opinions: A Natural Experiment Among Future French Politicians

53 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2019

See all articles by Yann Algan

Yann Algan

Sciences Po

Nicolò Dalvit

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Quoc-Anh Do

Sciences Po - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Alexis Le Chapelain

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Yves Zenou

Monash University - Department of Economics; Stockholm University; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IUI); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 31, 2019

Abstract

We study how friendship shapes students' political opinions in a natural experiment. We use the indicator whether two students were exogenously assigned to a short-term "integration group", unrelated to scholar activities and dissolved before the school year, as instrumental variable for their friendship, to estimate the effect of friendship on pairwise political opinion outcomes in dyadic regressions. After six months, friendship causes a reduction of differences in opinions by one quarter of the mean difference. It likely works through a homophily-enforced mechanism, by which friendship causes politically-similar students to join political associations together, which reinforces their political similarity. The effect is strong among initially similar pairs, but absent in dissimilar pairs. Friendship affects opinion gaps by reducing divergence, therefore polarization and extremism, without forcing individuals' views to converge. Network characteristics also matter to the friendship effect.

Keywords: political opinion, polarization, friendship effect, social networks, homophily, extremism, learning, natural experiment

JEL Classification: C93, D72, Z13

Suggested Citation

Algan, Yann and Dalvit, Nicolò and Do, Quoc-Anh and Le Chapelain, Alexis and Zenou, Yves, Friendship Networks and Political Opinions: A Natural Experiment Among Future French Politicians (May 31, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3397090 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3397090

Yann Algan

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337
France

Nicolò Dalvit

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints-Pères
Paris, Paris 75007
France

Quoc-Anh Do (Contact Author)

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28 rue des Saints-Pères
Paris, 75007
France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Alexis Le Chapelain

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Yves Zenou

Monash University - Department of Economics ( email )

Australia

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, Stockholm SE-106 91
Sweden

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IUI) ( email )

P.O. Box 5501
S-114 85 Stockholm
Sweden

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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