Perceived Immigration and Voting Behaviour

Davide Bellucci , University of Turin
Pierluigi Conzo
Roberto Zotti, University of Turin

A growing number of studies have found significant effects of inflows of migrants on electoral outcomes. However, the role of perceived immigration, which in many European countries is above official migration statistics, is overlooked. This paper investigates the effects of perceived threat of immigration on voting behavior, by looking at whether local elections in Italy were affected by sea arrivals of refugees before the election day. While, upon arrival, refugees cannot freely go to the destination municipality, landing episodes were discussed in the media especially before the elections, thereby influencing voters’ perceptions about the arrivals. We develop an index of exposure to arrivals that varies over time and across municipalities depending on the nationality of the incoming refugees. This index captures the impact of perceived immigration on voting behavior, on top of the effects of real immigration as proxied for by the stock of immigrants and the presence of refugee centers. Results show that, in municipalities where refugees are more expected to arrive, participation decreases, whereas protest votes and support for extreme-right, populist and anti-immigration parties increase. Since these effects are driven by areas with fast broadband availability, we argue that anti-immigration campaigns played a key role.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy