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Juan Vargas (Del Rosario University, Colombia)

29 March 2023 @ 12:00 - 13:15



29 March 2023
12:00 - 13:15
Event Category:
Academic Events

Fear to Vote: Explosions, Salience, and Elections

Abstract. Violence often induces fear and causes individuals to make decisions based on short-term survival considerations, so criminal groups use it strategically to manipulate the behavior of victims and bystanders in predictable ways that serve their interests. This suggests that the behavioral effects of violence are influenced by a pure salience component and by the perpetrator’s intention, two factors that are challenging to disentangle. We identify the effect of the salience of violence (independent from intentions) on electoral outcomes in Colombia. We use geo-located data on landmine explosions and voting polls and leverage the randomness in the timing of landmine accidents through a regression discontinuity framework. Specifically, we compare electoral outcomes in voting polls located close to where a landmine exploded shortly before elections to those in polls situated near a landmine that detonated shortly afterward. We find that landmine blasts reduce political participation and provide evidence that they produce fear and curtail people’s mobility. While the reduction in turnout takes place across the entire ideological spectrum, we show that landmine explosions induce a dramatic shift in the political preferences of individuals who do vote.