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

62 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2021

See all articles by Yann Algan

Yann Algan

Universite Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne - CNRS-EUREQUA; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Nicolò Dalvit

World Bank; Sciences Po

Quoc-Anh Do

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

Alexis Le Chapelain

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Yves Zenou

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

Abstract

We study how social interaction and friendship shape students' political opinions in a natural experiment at Sciences Po, the cradle of top French politicians. We exploit arbitrary assignments of students into short-term integration groups before their scholar cursus, and use the pairwise indicator of same-group membership as instrumental variable for friendship. After six months, friendship causes a reduction of differences in opinions by one third of the standard deviation of opinion gap. The evidence is consistent with a homophily-enforced mechanism, by which friendship causes initially politically-similar students to join political associations together, which reinforces their political similarity, without exercising an effect on initially politically-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.

JEL Classification: C93, D72, Z13

Suggested Citation

Algan, Yann and Dalvit, Nicolò and Dalvit, Nicolò and Do, Quoc-Anh and Le Chapelain, Alexis and Zenou, Yves and Zenou, Yves, Friendship Networks and Political Opinions: A Natural Experiment Among Future French Politicians. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3762875 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3762875

Yann Algan (Contact Author)

Universite Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne - CNRS-EUREQUA ( email )

106-112 Boulevard de l'Hopital
Paris Cedex 13, 75647
France

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Nicolò Dalvit

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Sciences Po ( email )

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

Quoc-Anh Do

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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