Brothers or Invaders?: How Crises-Driven Migrants Shape Voting Behavior
40 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 17, 2018
Several studies have documented negative political attitudes toward immigration among local voters. By examining how episodes of crisis-driven internal and international migration affect electoral as well as socioeconomic outcomes across municipalities in Colombia, we explore whether these attitudes are explained by self-interest or sociotropic motives. Self-interested voters care primarily about the impact of migration inflows on their personal socioeconomic well-being. Sociotropic voters, in contrast, view migrants as a threat to local cultural or social norms and display in-group bias. We take advantage of the fact that both internal migrants (displaced by the armed conflict in Colombia) and international migrants (driven by economic and political downturns in neighboring Venezuela) disproportionately locate in municipalities with early settlements of individuals from their place of origin and find that, while internal migration inflows do not lead to negative electoral results for the incumbent party, international migration reduces support for incumbents and increases support for right-wing candidates. Further, we find that once we control for migration-affected proxies for individual welfare, the electoral effects of international migration are largely unchanged, but those of the internal displacement shock disappear. Taken together, these findings are consistent with a scenario in which political attitudes are driven by sociotropic motives when reacting to international migration and by self-interest when reacting to internal forced migration. This asymmetry has the potential to inform policy responses aimed at maximizing the net benefits of migration.
Keywords: Migration, Electoral Outcomes, Political Economy, Colombia
JEL Classification: D72, F2, O15, R23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation