Religious Mobilization and the Selection of Political Elites: Evidence from Postwar Italy

57 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2022 Last revised: 13 Dec 2022

Date Written: December 12, 2022

Abstract

The literature has identified three key characteristics of effective electoral mobilizers: reputation, embeddedness in the local community, and the ability to reward and sanction voters. Religious leaders may possess all these characteristics. Can they favor their preferred candidates? Using a novel dataset of connections between politicians and Italian Catholic bishops throughout the 20th century, I conduct the first quantitative assessment of the electoral returns of personal connections to a religious leader. Leveraging the timing of bishops’ nominations within a difference-in-differences strategy, I estimate that bishops born in the electoral district yield a 27% increase in the individual preference votes for their connected candidate. Additional analyses point to the provision of campaign opportunities as the main mechanism driving the effect. These findings suggest that religious authorities can use their local embeddedness to mobilize voters, eventually influencing the selection of representatives in democratic systems.

Keywords: Voting Behavior, Political Connections, Religious Leaders, Electoral Politics, Mobilization

Suggested Citation

Pulejo, Massimo, Religious Mobilization and the Selection of Political Elites: Evidence from Postwar Italy (December 12, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4059145 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4059145

Massimo Pulejo (Contact Author)

University of Milan and CLEAN ( email )

Via Festa del Perdono, 7
Milan
Italy

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