Three decades ago, Sweden extended municipal and provincial voting privileges to non-citizen residents arguing that it would increase political influence, interest and self-esteem among foreign citizens. The aim of this paper is to explore the act of voting as a measure of social inclusion by comparing voting propensities of immigrants (people born outside Sweden), their descendants (born in Sweden) and native Swedish citizens (those who have citizenship through jus sanguine) while controlling for a range of socio-economic, demographic characteristics, contextual factors and a set of “hard” and “soft” social inclusion related variables. In particular we focus on the impact of citizenship acquisition -- does the symbolic act of attaining citizenship result in increased voting participation on the part of Swedish residents who are not citizens by birth.
We use the Swedish 2006 electoral survey matched to registry data from Statistics Sweden to assess the correlates of voting by Swedish-born and immigrant residents. Using instrumental variable regressions we estimate the impact of citizenship acquisition. We find that acquisition of citizenship makes a real difference to the probability of voting. Immigrants who naturalise are in general far more likely to vote than those who do not.