Long Run Persistence of Political Attitudes and Behavior: A Focus on Mechanisms

  • Abstract:

    I argue that identity-forming formal institutions leave lasting cultural legacies. I illustrate the argument with evidence from a natural experiment of history that divided a homogenous population of ethnic Ukrainians between Austrian and Russian empires in the late 18th century before reuniting them once again in the 20th. Marshaling evidence from a survey of 800 individuals over the age of 70 who reside within 15 miles of the defunct imperial border I propose and test a theory of political identity transmission. I find that families, as long as they remain embedded within likeminded communities, play a vital role in transmitting historical political identities. By contrast, state institutions, and especially schools, are dominant in identity building and transmission in families where historical political identities have not taken root. Schools, though, can be rendered ineffective by local elites, if the latter do not support state-promoted ideology, and by churches.