Can television have a mitigating effect on xenophobia? To examine this question, we exploit the fact that individuals in some areas of East Germany – due to their geographic location – could not receive West German television until 1989. We conjecture that individuals who received West German television were exposed more frequently to foreigners and thus have developed less xenophobia than people who were not exposed to those programs. Our results show that regions that could receive West German television were less likely to vote for right-wing parties during the national elections from 1998 to 2013. Only recently, the same regions were also more likely to vote for left-wing parties. Moreover, while counties that hosted more foreigners in 1989 were also more likely to vote for right-wing parties in most elections, we find counties that recently hosted more foreign visitors showed less xenophobia, which is in line with intergroup contact theory.
mass media television xenophobia attitudes towards foreigners East Germany natural experiment