The project studies how political polarization manifests itself in the willingness of individuals to conduct economic transactions across vs. within political camps. To address this question, the project will use a combination of a field experiment and a follow-up telephone survey.
In the field experiment, the research team will send pairs of WhatsApp messages from fictitious potential buyers to sellers who posted used car ads on a leading website for classified ads. We will use political stickers in the profile photos of non-neutral buyers to signal their political orientation. Specifically, we will randomly send to each seller either (1) one message from a “right-wing” buyer and another message from a neutral buyer (no profile photo) or (2) one message from a “left-wing” buyer and another message from a neutral buyer. We will then track the responses of sellers to buyers’ inquiries.
In the second step, the research team will use sellers’ telephone numbers to contact them and solicit their participation in a nominally independent survey. The survey’s main goal is to collect information on the political orientation of the sellers.
By comparing the response rates to the inquiries of the different types of buyers (right-wing, neutral, and left-wing), the field experiment will reveal the direction and strength of political discrimination in this market. To shed light on the sources of discrimination, we will merge the results of the field experiment with (1) data on the political orientation (and other characteristics) of the localities in which the cars are sold and (2) the results of the follow-up survey. This will enable us to study the association between discrimination and political orientation, both at the locality level and at the individual level.