Special Interests at the Ballot Box? Religion and the Electoral Success of the Nazis

Jorg Ludwig Spenkuch, Philipp Tillmann

Research output: Working paper


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. 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. Methodologically, we show that instrumental variables techniques are useful not only for making these causal ceteris paribus comparisons, but also for conducting ecological inferences. Taken beyond the historical context, our results highlight the ability of special interest groups to wield political influence by directly appealing to voters.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages70
StatePublished - Mar 2016


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