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The Political Fallout of Chernobyl: Evidence from West-German Elections

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  • Koenig, Christoph

    (Department of Economics University of Warwick)

Abstract

I study the effect of a formative experience on political beliefs in a distant country. This paper looks at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and voters’ response in West Germany. The analysis uses a di.-in-di. estimation which exploits variation in proximity to the nearest nuclear power plant (NPP) across 301 counties. Proximity is used as proxy for the shock from perceived risk of a nuclear accident. Using data over almost 40 years and 11 elections, my results indicate that living closer to an NPP benefited the explicitly anti- and pro-nuclear parties, the Greens and the Conservatives. The findings are persistent and robust to the inclusion of several socioeconomic controls as well as checks for the validity of the identifying assumptions. The gains of the Greens are similar across social groups and in line with home-voter effects. The effect of proximity on the conservatives increases with education and the number of adolescents in their impressionable years. I argue that this can be explained by political belief formation and di.erences in assessing the economic benefits from nuclear power over the actual risk of an accident. Using variation in the scheduling of subsequent state elections, I can also show that the pro-nuclear response was stronger in counties which did not vote in the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl and thus had more time for a rational electoral choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Koenig, Christoph, 2015. "The Political Fallout of Chernobyl: Evidence from West-German Elections," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1081, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1081
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    File URL: https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2015/twerp_1081_koenig.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Douglas Almond & Lena Edlund & Mårten Palme, 2009. "Chernobyl's Subclinical Legacy: Prenatal Exposure to Radioactive Fallout and School Outcomes in Sweden," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1729-1772.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N54 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: 1913-
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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