School of Economics and Finance

No. 762: The Political Legacy of Entertainment TV

Ruben Durante , Sciences Po and CEPR
Paolo Pinotti , Bocconi University and DONDENA Center
Andrea Tesei , Queen Mary University of London and CEP (LSE)

December 14, 2015

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We investigate the political impact of entertainment television in Italy over the past thirty years by exploiting the staggered introduction of Silvio Berlusconi's commercial TV network, Mediaset, in the early 1980s. We find that individuals in municipalities that had access to Mediaset prior to 1985 - when the network only featured light entertainment programs - were significantly more likely to vote for Berlusconi's party in 1994, when he first ran for office. This effect persists for almost two decades and five elections, and is especially pronounced for heavy TV viewers, namely the very young and the old. We relate the extreme persistence of the effect to the relative incidence of these age groups in the voting population, and explore different mechanisms through which early exposure to entertainment content may have influenced their political attitudes.

J.E.L classification codes: L82, D72, Z13

Keywords:Television, Entertainment, Voting, Political participation, Italy