COVID-19 Lockdown Policies Weaken Civic Attitudes in the US and Europe
The spread of COVID-19 has prompted governments to implement a range of restrictions to public life and the economy (broadly, 'lockdown policies'). We evaluate the short- and medium-term impacts of lockdown policies on civic attitudes relevant for the health of democracy. Using survey data collected daily between March and May 2020 in the United States and four European countries from 27,317 respondents and a difference-in-differences design, we document that lockdown policies give rise to authoritarian values and, to a lesser degree, support for autocracy. We find little evidence that lockdown policies affect satisfaction with democracy and the government, out-group hostility, and generalized trust. Additional analyses reveal that the effects on authoritarianism and support for autocracy persist for at least seven weeks, that the lifting of lockdown policies does not have a countervailing effect away from authoritarianism and support for autocracy, and that economic support packages have limited ability to alleviate the negative consequences of lockdowns on civic attitudes. Together, these findings confirm the existence of lockdowns' political repercussions, but show the need for a nuanced assessment of their scope. We discuss the implications of our findings for how governments might need to accompany lockdowns with measures that strengthen civic culture.
The Electoral Consequences of Restricting Labor Market Access for Refugees: Evidence from Germany
Governments across Europe are restricting labor market access for asylum seekers, with often detrimental consequences for the livelihood of refugees and the public finances of host societies. This raises the following questions: Are the benefits of restrictive immigrant policies political rather than economic, and do incumbent governments receive an electoral edge by implementing such policies? In this paper, we exploit a natural experiment in Germany, where, following a deterministic assignment rule, certain regions were exempted from a reform that liberalized labor market access for refugees. Using difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity designs, we find that the incumbent vote share sharply increases in regions with restrictive labor market access. Exploring different mechanisms, our results suggest that this effect is primarily driven by differential candidate entry: In regions with restrictive labor market access, fewer conservative and populist challengers are running for office. Our results suggest that not only do immigration inflows have direct electoral repercussions, but immigrant policies do also.
Does Exposure to the Refugee Crisis Make Natives More Hostile?
Although Europe has experienced unprecedented numbers of refugee arrivals since 2015, there exists almost no causal evidence regarding the impact of the refugee crisis on natives’ attitudes, policy preferences, or political engagement. We provide evidence from a natural experiment in the Aegean Sea, where Greek islands close to the Turkish coast experienced a sudden and massive increase in refugee arrivals while similar islands slightly farther away did not. Leveraging distance as an instrument for between-island variation in exposure to the refugee crisis allows us to obtain causal estimates of its impact. In our targeted survey of 2,070 islands residents, we ﬁnd that immediate exposure to large-scale refugee arrivals induces sizable and lasting increases in natives' hostility toward refugee, immigrant and Muslim minorities; support for restrictive asylum and immigration policies; and political engagement to effect such policies.
Data and Code
Not in My Backyard: Do Increases in Immigration Cause Political Violence?
While far-right parties profit electorally from rising immigration, we know very little about how increases in immigration mobilize opposition outside the electoral arena. Using fine-grained, classified data from the Federal Criminal Office in Germany, we estimate the causal effect of a sizable increase in asylum-seekers in a community on the probability of xenophobic hate crimes. Exploiting county-level quota regimes governing the allocation of asylum-seekers in Germany, we find that when immigration levels rise nationally, an increase in asylum-seeker arrivals in a community causes an increase in xenophobic hate crimes. We also document that these crimes are directed against asylum-seekers and not other non-natives, which suggests that they are instrumental actions intended to dispel and deter asylum-seekers from local communities.