Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values

76 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2004 Last revised: 11 Aug 2010

See all articles by Edward L. Glaeser

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto

CREI - Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Jesse M. Shapiro

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2004

Abstract

Party platforms differ sharply from one another, especially on issues with religious content, such as abortion or gay marriage. Religious extremism in the U.S. appears to be strategically targeted to win elections, since party platforms diverge significantly, while policy outcomes like abortion rates are not affected by changes in the governing party. Given the high returns from attracting the median voter, why do vote-maximizing politicians veer off into extremism? In this paper, we find that strategic extremism depends on an important intensive margin where politicians want to induce their core constituents to vote (or make donations) and the ability to target political messages towards those core constituents. Our model predicts that the political relevance of religious issues is highest when around one-half of the voting population attends church regularly. Using data from across the world and within the U.S., we indeed find a non-monotonic relationship between religious extremism and religious attendance.

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L. and Ponzetto, Giacomo A. M. and Shapiro, Jesse M., Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values (October 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10835. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=602722

Edward L. Glaeser (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2150 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

Brookings Institution

1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036-2188
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto

CREI - Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain
+34 93 542 2829 (Phone)
+34 93 542 2826 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.crei.cat/people/ponzetto

Jesse M. Shapiro

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
44
Abstract Views
927
PlumX Metrics