The Geography of Dictatorship and Support for Democracy


Year: 2019 HiCN Working Paper No. 298

We study whether exposure to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973-1990) affected political attitudes and behavior, exploiting the plausibly exogenous location of military bases shortly before the coup that brought Pinochet to power. We show that residents of counties housing military bases both registered to vote and voted “No” to Pinochet’s continuation in power at higher rates in the crucial 1988 plebiscite that bolstered the democratic transition. Counties with military bases also experienced substantially more civilian deaths during the dictatorship, suggesting that increased exposure to repression is an important mechanism driving the larger rates of political participation and regime opposition. Evidence from survey responses and elections after democratization shows that military presence led to long-lasting support for democracy without changing political ideologies or electoral outcomes.

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