• James E. Alt


2022, 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 whether information about unemployment shocks diffuses through networks of strong and mostly weak social ties and influences voters in Denmark. We link surveys with population-level administrative data that log unemployment shocks afflicting respondents’ familial, vocational, and educational networks. Our results show 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’ beliefs about national aggregates respond to all shocks similarly, 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