The Geography of Repression and Support for Democracy : Evidence from the Pinochet Dictatorship
We show that exposure to repression under dictatorship increases support for democracy and contributes to regime change when a democratic window of opportunity arises. Studying the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, we exploit the fact that the predetermined location of military bases predicts local levels of civilian victimization, but is unrelated to historical political preferences. Using two-stage least squares, we show that increased exposure to repression during the dictatorship led to higher voter registration and higher opposition to Pinochet’s continuation in power in the 1988 plebiscite that triggered the democratic transition. Complementary survey data confirms that individuals with greater exposure to repression during the military regime continue to have stronger preferences for democracy. However, exposure to repression does not affect election outcomes after democratization.