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Wolf attacks predict far-right voting

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Does the return of large carnivores affect voting behavior? We study this question through the lens of wolf attacks on livestock. Sustained environmental conservation has allowed the wolf (Canis lupus) to make an impressive and unforeseen comeback across Central Europe in recent years. While lauded by conservationists, local residents often see the wolf as a threat to economic livelihoods, particularly those of farmers. As populists appear to exploit such sentiments, the wolf’s reemergence is a plausible source for far-right voting behavior. To test this hypothesis, we collect fine-grained spatial data on wolf attacks and construct a municipality-level panel in Germany. Using difference-in-differences models, we find that wolf attacks are accompanied by a significant rise in far-right voting behavior, while the Green party, if anything, suffers electoral losses. We buttress this finding using local-level survey data, which confirms a link between wolf attacks and negative sentiment toward environmental protection. To explore potential mechanisms, we analyze Twitter posts, election manifestos, and Facebook ads to show that far-right politicians frame the wolf as a threat to economic livelihoods.

Document: pnas.2202224119.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberga and Anselm Hagerb

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