Compulsory Military Service Reduces Affective Polarization

Thursday, May 4, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.

  • Chagai Weiss
Chagai Weiss seminar

Research on remedies for affective polarization has primarily focused on psychological interventions, and limited studies consider how state institutions might depolarize voters. I argue that compulsory military service—a central state institution—can depolarize voters because it prevents early partisan sorting and increases the likelihood of contact between partisans during their impressionable years.

Leveraging the staggered abolition of mandatory conscription laws in fifteen European countries and employing a regression discontinuity design, I show that men exempt from mandatory conscription report higher levels of affective polarization than men who were subject to mass conscription. This effect is mainly driven by partisan parochialism among men exempt from service and is unrelated to ideological change. My findings emphasize the potential depolarizing effects of state institutions and illustrate how the abolition of mandatory service contributed to intensified patterns of affective polarization in Europe, contributing to the literature on the institutional origins of affective polarization.


Chagai M. Weiss is a postdoctoral fellow at the Conflict and Polarization Initiative at the King Center on Global Development at Stanford University. After spending two years as a research fellow at Harvard University's Middle East Initiative, Chagai received a Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Chagai's primary interest is in understanding the potential role of institutions in reducing prejudice and conflict in divided societies. Chagai's work has been published or is forthcoming in multiple venues, including Cambridge University Press (Elements in Experimental Political Science), the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Journal of Political Science, the American Political Science Review, and Comparative Political Studies.

Virtual to Public. Only those with an active Stanford ID with access to E008 in Encina Hall may attend in person.