Party competition and immigration and integration policies: a comparative analysis

Abstract

What influences parties’ issue attention towards immigration and integration? This study provides answers to this question by focusing on the party competition at the regional level in Germany, a country that has been strongly affected by the refugee crisis. Building on a novel data set which covers altogether 510 electoral manifestos during 108 federal and regional elections between 1990 and 2016, we assess the influence of party-specific, situational as well as structural factors on issue attention towards immigration and integration policies. Using descriptive statistics and regression analysis, we find that parties’ attention is significantly associated with citizens’ attention towards these issues. Furthermore, ideologically conflicting parties differ considerably in the share of their manifestos they devote to the issue. Interestingly, the electoral threat by populist radical right parties has no effect on the issue attention of mainstream competitors.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Schmidtke offers a discussion of this argument with regard to the national level in Germany. (Schmidtke, O. (2015) 'Between populist rhetoric and pragmatic policymaking: The normalization of migration as an electoral issue in German politics', Acta Politica, 50(4), pp. 379–398).

  2. 2.

    We gratefully acknowledge the supply of electoral manifestos and coalition agreements by Thomas Bräuninger, Marc Debus and Jochen Müller Müller, J. (2013) 'On a Short Leash? Sub-National Party Positions between Regional Context and National Party Unity', Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 23(2), pp. 177–199, Bräuninger, T. and Debus, M. (2012) Parteienwettbewerb in den deutschen Bundesländern. (unter Mitarbeit von Jochen Müller). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

  3. 3.

    Note that DVU, NPD and AfD did not participate in all 118 elections.

  4. 4.

    The Politbarometer is conducted at least monthly by the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, each survey comprising around 1250 respondents from the entire area of Germany.

  5. 5.

    We cannot discern empirically to what extent the problem perception of respondents refers to the migration of East Germans or other groups, as the categorization of the Politbarometer is partly too unspecific.

  6. 6.

    More precisely, we calculated the mean issue attention for each party by using all manifestos for state and national elections during a year.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Vinzent Leitgeb, Marius Michel, Magdalena Pulz, Sebastian Riedl and Ellen Schmitt for valuable research assistance. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers for their fruitful comments on the paper. An earlier version of this article was presented at the EPSA General Conference, 25–27 June 2015 in Vienna.

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Correspondence to Matthias Kortmann.

Appendix

Appendix

See Fig. 6 and Tables 1, 2.

Fig. 6
figure6

Competence attribution by voters. Figure shows how voters have rated the competence of different parties in the area of immigration and integration policies. More specifically, respondents in the Politbarometer were asked to indicate the party they deemed most competent in this area. Unfortunately, the question was only asked for 21 elections, so that we could not integrate the data into the multivariate test. As can be seen, there has long been a head-to-head race between the two main parties, CDU and SPD, about the ownership of the issue. Though the data should be interpreted with care, more recently the CDU seem to have lost competence in the eye of the voters

Table 2 Predicted issue attention with varying situational factors (Fig. 5)

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Kortmann, M., Stecker, C. Party competition and immigration and integration policies: a comparative analysis. Comp Eur Polit 17, 72–91 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-017-0108-8

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Keywords

  • Party competition
  • Issue attention
  • Electoral manifestos
  • Immigration and integration policy
  • Germany