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Jan
18
UCLouvain Economics Seminar - Tianyi Wang, University of Copenhagen
By UCLouvain Economics Seminar

Tianyi Wang

University of Copenhagen

will give a presentation on

Media, Pulpit, and Populist Persuasion: Evidence from Father Coughlin

Abstract

New technologies make it easier for charismatic individuals to influence others. This paper studies the political impact of the first populist radio personality in American history. Father Charles Coughlin blended populist demagoguery, anti-Semitism, and fascist sympathies to create a hugely popular radio program that attracted tens of millions of listeners throughout the 1930s. Exploiting variation in the radio signal strength as a result of topographic factors, I find that a one standard deviation increase in exposure to Coughlin’s anti-Roosevelt broadcast reduced FDR’s vote share by about two percentage points in the 1936 presidential election. Effects were larger in counties with more Catholics. An alternative difference-in-differences strategy exploiting Coughlin’s switch in attitude towards FDR during 1932-1936 confirms the results. Moreover, I find that places more exposed to Coughlin’s broadcast in the late 1930s were more likely to form a local branch of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund and sold fewer war bonds during WWII.

Link to the Seminar

Meeting ID : 993 1879 0764

Access Code : 225396