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Globalization, robotization, and electoral outcomes: Evidence from spatial regressions for Italy

Mauro Caselli, Andrea Fracasso and Silvio Traverso

Journal of Regional Science, 2021, vol. 61, issue 1, 86-111

Abstract: Criticism of economic globalization and technological progress has gained support in Italy in the last two decades. However, due to the differentiated exposure of local labor markets to this process, electoral outcomes have varied considerably across the country. By observing the local impact of three global economic phenomena (flows of migrants, foreign competition in international trade, and diffusion of robots) alongside with the patterns of local electoral outcomes potentially associated with discontent, this study analyzes the economic forces driving the evolution of general elections in 2001, 2008, and 2013 in Italy. The analysis reveals that all these global factors had an impact on political outcomes associated with discontent, albeit in different ways and changing over time. All three factors are associated with increases in votes for far‐right parties in the period 2001–2008, but only robotization continues to have such an impact in the following period, while immigration is associated with an increase in votes for the Five‐Star Movement at the expense of far‐right parties. The results and extensions exploiting recent advances in political geography, political economy, and spatial econometrics make it possible to draw some general and methodological conclusions. Global drivers interact with elements pertaining to the political supply that empirical researchers should not be oblivious about. Political spillovers across neighboring areas add to the direct impact of locally mediated economic factors. Finally, the adoption of shift–share instrumental variables to identify the impact of robotization may lack robustness.

Date: 2021
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