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The Logic of Fear: Populism and Media Coverage of Immigrant Crimes

Mathieu Couttenier (), Sophie Hatte (), Mathias Thoenig () and Stephanos Vlachos ()
Additional contact information
Mathieu Couttenier: University of Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Gate UMR 5824, F-69342 Lyon, France and CEPR

No 1914, Working Papers from Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon

Abstract: We study how news coverage of immigrant criminality impacted municipality-level votes in the November 2009 “minaret ban” referendum in Switzerland. The campaign, successfully led by the populist Swiss People’s Party, played aggressively on fears of Muslim immigration and linked Islam with terrorism and violence. We combine an exhaustive violent crime detection dataset with detailed information on crime coverage from 12 newspapers. The data allow us to quantify the extent of pre-vote media bias in the coverage of migrant criminality. We then estimate a theory-based voting equation in the cross-section of municipalities. Exploiting random variations in crime occurrences, we find a first-order, positive effect of news coverage on political support for the minaret ban. Counterfactual simulations show that, under a law forbidding newspapers to disclose a perpetrator’s nationality, the vote in favor of the ban would have decreased by 5 percentage points (from 57.6% to 52.6%).

Keywords: Media; Violent crime; Immigration; Vote; Populism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 L82 Z12 K42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-isf, nep-mig, nep-pol and nep-soc
Date: 2019
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Related works:
Working Paper: The Logic of Fear - Populism and Media Coverage of Immigrant Crimes (2019) Downloads
Working Paper: The Logic of Fear: Populism and Media Coverage of Immigrant Crimes (2019) Downloads
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