The Political Impact of Refugee Migration: Evidence from the Italian Dispersal Policy
55 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 8, 2020
The ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe has created a public opinion backlash. Italy has been on the frontline of this crisis but little is known about its political impact on voting behavior and electoral outcomes. We collect unique administrative data on the refugee relocation system across Italian municipalities during the crisis (2014-2017) to assess the causal effect of the inflow of asylum seekers on political support for radical-right anti-immigration parties and vote shares in parliamentary elections. We exploit exogenous variation in refugee settlement induced by the Italian Dispersal Policy, set up in 2014 to exceptionally enlarge the national reception capacity. We find a positive and significant effect of the share of asylum seekers on right-wing-populist support. The effect is significantly heterogeneous across municipality characteristics, yet robust to dispersal policy features. We show that the anti-immigration backlash is not rooted in adverse economic effects, while it is triggered by radical–right propaganda.
Keywords: Immigration, Refugee Crisis, Political Preferences, Dispersal Policy
JEL Classification: H53, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation