Pentecostal Evangelicals play a growing role in Latin American politics, promoting conservative candidates. This paper finds a large causal effect of Pentecostal growth on support for Evangelical and far-right candidates in Brazil. To establish causality, I exploit the staggered translation of the Bible into different indigenous languages by SIL, a 20th-century US Evangelical organization. To further strengthen identification, I predict the timing of SIL translations using linguistic distance to foreign languages with prior Bible translations. As a first stage result, I find that exposure to SIL activities increased the share of Pentecostal affiliations. Leveraging this variation, I find that a 1 p.p. increase in the share of Pentecostals increased Evangelical and far-right candidates’ vote share by 18% and 16%, respectively. These effects are larger in municipalities with less educated, poorer, and more rural populations. Furthermore, results suggest that 20% of the votes obtained by Bolsonaro in 2018 can be attributed to Pentecostals. Finally, I find SIL activities generate spillover effects in municipalities where no indigenous language is spoken, allowing me to extend the analysis to the rest of Brazil. These results suggest that the Pentecostal church is an important driving force in the rise of the far-right in the recent history of Brazil.
The Catholic Church is one of the oldest and most influential institutions in human history. While a long tradition in social sciences has examined the social and political effects of different denominations, we know little about whether doctrinal changes within the Catholic Church have influenced these outcomes. In this paper, we build on the framework developed by Tuñon (2017) and examine the consequences of the shift from progressive to conservative doctrine triggered by the appointment of John Paul II in 1978. This change had dramatic implications in Latin America, where progressive priests and bishops actively promoted redistributive agendas. We focus on the case of Brazil, where the progressive Church had been highly involved in the landless movement; a redistributive conflict in which poor and landless peasants invaded large landholdings to force land redistribution. We collect historical data on the identity, appointment, and turnover of all priests and bishops in Brazil from 1965 to 1997. We combine these data with a highly detailed dataset on the number of land invasions at the municipality-year level. Using the staggered replacement of progressive bishops for more traditional ones after 1978, we find that the removal of progressive religious leaders halted the land invasion movement. These results suggest that changes in the leadership of the Church can have important consequences for the emergence or suppression of social conflict.
In 2018 the homicide rate was reaching its historical record in Brazil and Bolsonaro ran for elections with an aggressive anti-crime platform. In this paper, I exploit a quasi-experimental variation generated by introducing police units in favelas near the Olympic facilities of Rio de Janeiro. For each census tract in Rio de Janeiro I show there is variation in the homicide rate according to proximity to a favela and whether or not there are police units installed. In addition, I show that the introduction of police units also had an effect on the votes obtained by Bolsonaro in 2018. Results suggest that an increase of one homicide per 100,000 inhabitants corresponds to a 2.8 p.p. increase in the share of votes won by Bolsonaro in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro.