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How do Parties Respond to the Immigration Policy Mood?

Political Competition
Representation
Immigration
Marc Van De Wardt
University of Amsterdam
Marc Van De Wardt
University of Amsterdam
Maria Sobolewska
University of Manchester
Patrick English
Institute for Social Research, Oslo
Steven Van Hauwaert
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Abstract

This paper examines how political parties respond to the immigration policy mood. When the public mood towards immigration becomes more conservative, parties are expected to (a) shift their position, and (b) adjust the number of MPs of immigrant origin representing them in parliament. As for the direction of both effects, we expect important differences between niche and mainstream parties. One could argue that mainstream parties (i.e. Social Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Christian-Democrats) are vote and office-seeking, which implies that they try to maximize their votes and acquisition of government portfolios. Niche parties (i.e. radical left, radical right and Green), in turn, are policy seeking, implying that they prefer to advocate pure policy positons, even if these positions conflict with vote and office objectives. When the immigration policy mood among voters becomes more conservative, we expect mainstream parties to adopt a more conservative position on immigration and decrease the number of MPs in parliament. Niche parties, however, are hypothesized to be (1) insensitive to the immigration mood, or (2) in case they do respond, Green parties will do so by adopting a more favorable position on immigration and by increasing the number of immigrant MPs. The radical-right, however, will respond in an ambiguous fashion: They will adopt a more restrictive position on immigration, but increase the number of immigrant MPs representing them in parliament. They do so in order to gain legitimacy for their restrictive policy positions. These hypotheses will be tested on the basis of a cross-national dataset on the representation of immigrants in national parliaments from 1990s onwards in the Netherlands and UK. The immigration mood among the public will be calculated on the basis of (cross)national survey data (e.g. Eurobarometer, European Values Survey). Finally, parties’ policy positions on immigration will be derived from the Comparative Manifesto Project.