Buying the Vote? The Economics of Electoral Politics and Small Business Loans

Ran Duchin and John Hackney

We study the effect of electoral politics on government small business lending, employment, and business formation. We construct novel measures of electoral importance capturing swing and base voters using data from Facebook ad spending, independent political expenditures, the Cook Political Report, and campaign contributions. We find that businesses in electorally important states, districts, and sectors receive more loans following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, controlling for funding demand and both health and economic conditions. Estimates from survey and observational data show that electoral politics and the allocation of government funds affect employment, small business activity, and business applications.