Research on radical right politics shows that the immigration issue can reshape electoral alignments and patterns of political competition in favor of anti-immigrant parties. However, we know surprisingly little about the capacity of the immigration issue to generate electoral change in systems where radical parties are absent. On the basis of issue ownership theory, we show with longitudinal data that concerns over immigration strengthen the identification with the centre-right party owning the immigration issue, especially when primed by the media. Our results, obtained using the German Socioeconomic Panel and media content analysis, confirm strong priming effects among previous non-identifiers and among supporters of the issue owner, and weaker effects among former mainstream left-wing leaners. The findings suggest that the immigration issue is a relevant trigger of electoral change in mainstream political space, but is less likely to generate transfers of party loyalty. Our analyses refine the test of priming effects as a mechanism for issue ownership theory.
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For an example of work using aggregate time-series analyses in the valence framework, see Green and Jennings (2012).
The Republicans were represented in the state of Baden-Württemberg until 2001. The National Democratic Party (NPD) is represented in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The German People’s Union, after entering a non-competition agreement with the NPD in 2004, also obtained representation in Brandemburg. The electoral appeal and threat of anti-immigrant parties in Germany at the federal level, however, is considered to be minor (Mudde 2007).
For an exception in the Netherlands, see Van der Brug (2004).
The item available in the CMP database that best resembles the immigration issue is: “cultural diversity, communalism, cultural plurality and pillarization; preservation of autonomy of religious, linguistic heritages within the country including special educational provisions”.
The CMP data on immigration issue ownership are consistent with the 2010 and 2006 Chapel Hill expert surveys, which contain an item on parties’ saliency on immigration issues (from 0 to 10, where 10 means maximal saliency). According to the 2010 survey, CDU–CSU is the party insisting more on immigration issues (7.33). This score is above FDP (5.53), SPD (4.47), De Linke (5.07) and even the Green (7.07). As for the 2006 survey, CDU–CSU also shows a high intensity on immigration issues (7.43), above FDP (6.14), SPD (6.86) and De Linke (6.67). Only the Green have a slightly higher saliency score in 2006 (7.57), but on the liberal side of immigration policy and therefore far from competing for the ownership of negative concerns over immigration.
For this estimation we used the questions asking about the respondent’s perception of the first, second and third most important problem and the party most capable of handling each. We restricted ourselves to the following alternatives: 3411 “Auslaenderkriminalitaet speziell” (crime of foreigners); 3752 “Begrenzung Zuwanderung speziell” (limiting immigration); and 3753 “Auslaenderanteil in Deutschland” (the share of foreigners in Germany).
We estimated our models also without replacement; this did not substantially change the findings.
For comparison purposes, and given the tradition of measuring saliency via the most important problem question, we have checked the aggregate relationship between our concern measurement and the most important problem of Germans using the German Politbarometer series (Forschungsgruppe Wahlen 2013). Both series show a similar pattern and so we are confident that our measure is adequate.
The search string was: (discrim! OR (hate OR ememy! OR aversion OR dislik! w/5 foreigner! OR immigr! OR refugee! OR alien!) OR integration! OR naturali! OR ((course! OR education) w/5 (language! OR integration! OR naturali! OR foreign! OR immigr! OR asyl)) OR language course! OR language class! OR language education! OR naturalization class OR family reunion OR sham marriage OR fake marriage OR forced marriage OR forced engagement OR immigr! OR foreign! OR multicult! OR (ghett! w/5 foreigner! OR immigr! OR refugee!) OR muslim! OR islam! OR asyl! OR immigrant visa! OR residence permit OR permanent residence OR citizenship! OR (asyl w/5 reject! OR refus!) OR (spouse w/5 foreign) OR refugee! OR honor killing! OR (hate speech! OR hate preach!) OR (terror w/5 fundament!) OR human traffick!). See Boomgarden and Vliegenthart (2009) for the German language version.
The eigenvalue of this factor is 1.51. The factor loadings for Die Welt, Der Spiegel and Tageszeitung are 0.75, 0.71 and 0.67, respectively. The uniqueness values for each of these news sources are 0.44, 0.5, and 0.55, respectively.
Multinomial models allow us to avoid ignoring any relevant alternative in case the options we analyze are inherently linked. We first estimated a random-effects (REs) multinomial model predicting a categorical variable where the value 1 (reference category) corresponds to “leaning to CDU-CSU”, the value 2 corresponds to “not leaning to any party”, and the value 3 corresponds to “leaning to any other party”. We estimated a second model with the same dependent variable, except for a slight variation in the third value, which corresponds to leaning towards SPD. The results concerning the conversion and activation hypotheses are equivalent to those obtained with logit FE models and reported in Tables 1 and 2 below (results available upon request). Despite the consistency of our findings across modelling strategies, we only report FE models. The assumption in RE models is that the error term is uncorrelated with the covariates. However, this assumption is often violated and does not allow us to deal with the problem of unobserved heterogeneity.
The correlation between negative mentions to multiculturalism by parties using CMP data and aggregate concern over immigration in public opinion is almost negligible. This suggests that party manifestoes have little impact on public opinion according to our data. Since the available time points in the CMP data are only 4, however, this finding does not allow us to draw firm conclusions regarding the impact of party discourse on public opinion.
Note that the N across the models testing the conversion and the activation hypotheses change because the cases coded as 0 are different. While the value 0 corresponds to respondents identified with any party other than CDU–CSU when testing conversion, it corresponds to respondents without party attachment in those models testing activation. The models testing the mobilization hypothesis only include CDU–CSU identifiers.
Since the swing of party attachment is a relatively infrequent phenomenon, analysing conversion to CDU–CSU party by party in fully specified models reduces the N considerably. In order to keep as much statistical power as possible for the simulations presented below, and to present the most reliable models, we present a reduced specification without some of the control variables. If the analyses are replicated with the full set of covariates as in Table 1, however, the results remain unchanged.
It is important to note that the confidence intervals in the mobilization test are very narrow due to the linear specification of the model. While the expected probabilities derived from logistic transformations depend on the values of the different covariates, this is not the case in linear models.
Results available upon request. We opted for including period dummy variables rather than replicating the analyses in each period, given that our sample and the time points are dramatically reduced within each government period, especially the last one.
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See Table 3.
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Pardos-Prado, S., Lancee, B. & Sagarzazu, I. Immigration and Electoral Change in Mainstream Political Space. Polit Behav 36, 847–875 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-013-9248-y