Public Choice

, Volume 159, Issue 1, pp 105-120

First online:

The welfare state, migration, and voting rights

  • Christine Fauvelle-AymarAffiliated withCITERES, UMR 7324, University of Tours Email author 

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This paper proposes a political economic analysis of public opinion in European Union countries toward migrants from poor countries. By focusing on redistributive policy, the analysis sheds light on specific determinants of public opinion. The theoretical analysis, based on the median voter framework, shows that one of the key variables affecting public opinion is the voting rights of migrants. Where migrants do not have the right to vote, their presence negatively impacts the poorest natives. In countries where migrants enjoy voting rights, they are able to vote on redistributive policy; therefore, the impact of migration on natives’ welfare is fundamentally different. After the theoretical analysis, the paper proposes an empirical analysis of Europeans’ attitudes toward non-Western migrants in European Union countries. This empirical analysis confirms the decisive impact of migrants’ voting rights. It shows that, in EU countries, the more educated natives are significantly less favorable to migrants from poor countries when the latter have the right to vote.


Migration Voting rights Redistributive policy Opinion toward migrants Political economy

JEL Classification

D72 H1 F22 J61