PE Research Seminar: Daniela Sola

Brother votes for brother: The effects of Pentecostal political influence in Brazil (JMP Practice Talk)
Sep 22, 2022, 12:15 pm1:30 pm
300 Wallace Hall
Event Description

The rise of Pentecostal Evangelical affiliations in Latin America is playing an increasingly relevant role, since several churches have become strongly involved in politics. They promote pastors as political candidates and support radical candidates, such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. In this paper, I propose a novel identification strategy to uncover the causal effect of Pentecostal growth on political outcomes in Brazil. Specifically, I exploit the work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a 20th century evangelical organization founded in the US, whose main action is to translate the Bible.  I construct a municipality-level panel dataset using geo-localized data on the indigenous languages spoken in Brazil and data on the year of translation of the Bible into each of these languages. I then predict the timing of the translation of the Bible into each language by using linguistic similarities with languages with existing Bible translations spoken outside Brazil. First, I show regions more exposed to SIL’s work experienced a larger increase in Pentecostal affiliations. Second, by exploiting this variation, I estimate the impact of the Pentecostal rise on the vote share obtained by far-right and Evangelical candidates in Brazil. I find that the Pentecostal growth in Brazil is shifting the political spectrum to the right, but most importantly it is increasing support for Evangelical candidates. Additionally, I present evidence of a connection between Pentecostal growth and support for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s 2018 presidential election.