Special Interests at the Ballot Box? Religion and the Electoral Success of the Nazis
70 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014 Last revised: 12 Apr 2016
Date Written: March 2016
We study the connection between religion and political radicalization in Weimar Germany, where the Catholic Church vehemently warned ordinary parishioners about the dangers of National Socialism. Methodologically, we show that instrumental variables techniques are useful not only for making ceteris paribus comparisons, but also for conducting ecological inferences. Substantively, we establish that constituencies' religious composition is the single most important empirical predictor of Nazi vote shares---dwarfing the explanatory power of any other demographic or socioeconomic variable. Even after accounting for all observational differences, Catholics were far less likely to vote for the NSDAP than their Protestant counterparts. The evidence suggests that this disparity was, in large part, due to the sway of the Catholic Church and its dignitaries. Taken beyond the historical context, our results highlight the ability of special interest groups to wield political influence by directly appealing to voters.
Keywords: special interests, voting, religion, fascism, Nazis, Weimar Germany
JEL Classification: Z10, Z12, D72, N0, N34, N94
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation