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

Spenkuch, Jörg L. and Tillmann, Philipp, Special Interests at the Ballot Box? Religion and the Electoral Success of the Nazis (March 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2408863 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2408863

Jörg L. Spenkuch (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jspenkuch.github.io

Philipp Tillmann

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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