This paper provides causal evidence on the effect of credit crunches on political polarization. We combine data on bank-firm connections and electoral outcomes at the city-level during the 2008-2014 Spanish Financial Crisis. First, we show that firms in a relationship with weak banks experience a reduction in their loan supply and employment growth. Next, we estimate the effects of unemployment on voting behaviour. We construct an instrument for unemployment based on the city-level exposure to foreign weak banks. We find that a one standard deviation increase in instrumented unemployment translates into a 7 percentage increase in the polarisation of voters.
Keywords: Polarization, financial crisis, instrumental variable strategy, Spanish elections, credit supply shock, real effects, unemployment risk