A New Electorate? Comparing Preferences and Partisanship between Immigrants and Natives


  • For helpful comments and advice, we thank Andra Gillespie, Lucy Goodhart, Donald Green, Alexandra Guisinger, Anthony Heath, Daniel Hopkins, David Nickerson, Irfan Nooruddin, Jason Rogart, Frances Rosenbluth, Bruce Russett, Shamit Saggar, Tom Saunders, and Ken Scheve, as well as participants at the 2004 annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association, where earlier versions of this article were presented. We also received valuable comments from the editors and from three anonymous reviewers. We thank Yale University for financial support, and Elizabeth Saunders thanks the National Science Foundation for the support of a Graduate Research Fellowship and the Brookings Institution for a Brookings Research Fellowship.

Rafaela Dancygier is a Ph.D. candidate in political science, Yale University, P.O. Box 208301, New Haven, CT 06520-8301 (rafaela.dancygier@yale.edu). Elizabeth N. Saunders is a Ph.D. candidate in political science, Yale University, P.O. Box 208301, New Haven, CT 06520-8301 (elizabeth.saunders@yale.edu).


As immigrants constitute a large and rising share of both the population and the electorate in many developed democracies, we examine aspects of immigrant political behavior, a vital issue that has gone largely unexplored outside of the U.S. context. We focus on Germany and Great Britain, two countries that provide good leverage to explore both within-country and cross-national variation in Europe. Our overall aim is to assess the impact of the immigration context. As a first step, we investigate whether immigrants and natives have systematically different attitudes on two issues that have dominated postwar European politics: social spending and redistribution. With controls in place, we observe that immigrants are no more likely to support increased social spending or redistributive measures than natives and find support for hypotheses highlighting selection effects and the impact of the immigration regime. Where we do find an opinion gap, immigrants tend to have more conservative preferences than natives. As a second step, we explore the determinants of immigrant partisan identification in Britain and find that the salience of the immigration context helps explain immigrants' partisan attachment to the Labour Party.