fbpx Diffusing Political Concerns: How Unemployment Information Passed Between Social Ties Influences Danish Voters | Harvard Kennedy School

Additional Authors:

  • James E. Alt
  • Horacio Larreguy


January 2020, Paper: "While social pressure is widely believed to influence voters, evidence that information passed between social ties affects beliefs, policy preferences, and voting behavior is limited. We investigate such information diffusion by examining whether networks of strong and mostly weak social ties relay information about unemployment shocks in Denmark. We link surveys with rich population-level administrative data that logs unemployment shocks afflicting respondents’ familial, vocational, and educational networks. We find that the share of second-degree social ties—individuals that voters learn about indirectly—that became unemployed within the last year increases a voter’s perception of national unemployment, self-assessed risk of becoming unemployed, support for unemployment insurance, and voting for left-wing political parties. Voters update about national aggregates from all shocks equally, whereas subjective perceptions and preferences respond primarily to unemployment shocks afflicting second-degree ties in similar vocations. This suggests that information diffusion through social ties principally affects political preferences via egotropic—rather than sociotropic—motives." 

Non-HKS Author Website - James Alt  

Non-HKS Author Website - Horacio Larreguy