Do Politicians Discriminate Against Constituents with an Immigration Background? Field Experimental Evidence from Germany
24 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2020 Last revised: 13 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 23, 2020
Immigration is changing the face of Western European electorates. Do politicians discriminate against the growing number of constituents with an immigration background? While ethnic distance can explain lower responsiveness to outgroup constituents, shared partisanship might mitigate discrimination. We examine this issue through an audit experiment with more than 1,500 MPs in fifteen German state legislatures. We find that politicians are eleven percentage points less likely to respond to a constituent’s email asking for a personal meeting if the sender has an immigrant background. Surprisingly, there is no difference in rates of discrimination between leftist and rightist parties. We also find evidence that signaling partisanship can mitigate the immigrant-background effect. Our results have important implications for the study of immigration and political representation in contemporary Western Europe.
Keywords: Immigration, discrimination, responsiveness, Germany, audit study
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