Robot Shock and Effects on Elections

Robot Shock and Effects on Elections


Automation impacts voting behavior as it increases support for nationalist and radical-right parties. This is one of the key points of the working paper We Were the Robots: Automation and Voting Behavior in Western Europe. Massimo Anelli, Italo Colantone and Piero Stanig (Department of Social and Political Sciences) compared automation of production, employment and voting behavior in 15 Western European countries, between 1993 and 2016.
In order to compute a measurement of the robot shock, they performed the analysis on a regional basis. “We considered the composition of employment by industry in each region before the shock. Then we measured the pace of adoption of robots in each region and compared it to election results.” The paper shows that the robot shock affected different industries than those affected by globalization and by Chinese competition in particular, but it has similar political consequences: it causes an average 2.5% increase in the support for radical-right parties.
The paper also introduces an interesting methodological innovation. The authors compute an individual-level measure of exposure to the robot shock related to age, education, gender, and place of residence. The measure is based on the predicted probabilities of employment of an individual in each industry, according to the pace of adoption of robots. “This measure allows us to control for the effect of other variables on voting behavior and to predict the employment that each individual would have had without automation.” The model can therefore tell us the voting behavior of the 25-year-old who fries burgers and who would have worked on the assembly line of an automotive industry in the early ’90s.

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