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Friendship Networks and Political Opinions: A Natural Experiment among Future French Politicians

Author

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  • Algan, Yann

    () (Sciences Po and CEPR)

  • Dalvit, Nicolò

    () (Sciences Po)

  • Do, Quoc-Anh

    () (Sciences Po and CEPR)

  • Le Chapelain, Alexis

    (Department of Economics)

  • Zenou, Yves

    () (Monach University)

Abstract

We study how friendship shapes students' political opinions in a natural experiment. We use the indicator whether two students were exogenously assigned to a short-term \integration group", unrelated to scholar activities and dissolved before the school year, as instrumental variable for their friendship, to estimate the effect of friendship on pairwise political opinion outcomes in dyadic regressions. After six months, friendship causes a reduction of differences in opinions by one quarter of the mean difference. It likely works through a homophily-enforced mechanism, by which friendship causes politically-similar students to join political associations together, which reinforces their political similarity. The effect is strong among initially similar pairs, but absent in dissimilar pairs. Friendship affects opinion gaps by reducing divergence, therefore polarization and extremism, without forcing individuals' views to converge. Network characteristics also matter to the friendship effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Algan, Yann & Dalvit, Nicolò & Do, Quoc-Anh & Le Chapelain, Alexis & Zenou, Yves, 2019. "Friendship Networks and Political Opinions: A Natural Experiment among Future French Politicians," Working Paper Series 1294, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1294
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    Cited by:

    1. Campbell, Arthur & Leister, Matthew & Zenou, Yves, 2019. "Social Media and Polarization," CEPR Discussion Papers 13860, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Political opinion; Polarization; Friendship effect; Social networks; Homophily; Extremism; Learning; Natural experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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