Guadalupe Tuñón (Alesina Seminar)


Thursday, February 17, 2022, 4:30pm to 5:45pm


CGIS Knafel, room K354

Today's Speaker

Guadalupe Tuñón (Princeton University), "When the Church Votes Left: How Progressive Bishops Helped to Build the Workers' Party in Brazil"


A long tradition in the social sciences characterizes religion’s influence in electoral politics as conservative and left-wing parties as fundamentally secular. Contrary to both these claims, this paper shows that the presence of progressive Catholic bishops—who actively supported state-led redistribution—was crucial in mobilizing poor voters in favor of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) in Brazil. The paper draws on a natural experiment stemming from Pope John Paul II’s appointment to the papacy in 1978, which generated plausibly as-if random variation in the length of progressive bishops’ tenure in offce. I find that the party’s electoral performance increased in municipalities with longer exposure to progressive bishops. This effect can be explained by the PT’s access to religious networks, which allowed the party to build local organizational structures. The findings highlight the importance of understanding how religious leaders’ economic preferences shape the rise of left parties. They have important implications for theories of political party development and religion’s political influence.

Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Program on Political Economy (PE) supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.

Zoom links for Political Economy Seminar are distributed via the seminar's mailing list. You can subscribe to the PE Mailing List here.

See the seminar's full schedule at the Program on Political Economy page.

All interested faculty and students are invited to attend.