My colleagues at the NCCR on the move have published two useful datasets: an overview of all relevant laws, both at the national and cantonal level (this will come in handy when updating MIPEX), and an overview of all referendums on immigration and immigrant integration (this is quite a bit like my own timeline, also on Figshare). It’s nice to see these data out there.
In Switzerland popular initiatives an referendums play an important role in political life, both as an instrument of policy-making and as a strategic instrument of political manoeuvring. Here’s an overview of the popular initiatives and referendums about immigration since 1960.
Before even looking at the different colours, we can see that the number of initiatives and referendums on immigration has increased over time. In the figure, red shades denote anti-immigrant initiatives and referendums; green shades denote pro-immigrant initiatives and referendums. We can see that the red shades dominate, indicating that mobilization against immigration is dominant, although not the only show in town, so to speak.
I have used different shades to differentiate between successful and failed initiatives and referendums: Pink = anti-immigrant initiative or referendum that was defeated at the polls (=failed). Very light pink = anti-immigrant initiative or referendum that was stopped (too few signatures, withdrawn, etc.). Dark red = anti-immigrant initiative or referendum that was supported at the polls (=success). Two anti-immigrant initiatives are given in light purple: they are prepared (signatures collected etc.) and are awaiting being put to the polls. Light green = pro-immigrant initiative or referendum that was defeated at the polls (=failure). Very light green = pro-immigrant initiative or referendum that was stopped (too few signatures, withdrawn, etc.). Dark green = pro-immigrant initiative or referendum that was supported at the polls (=success).
This additional information is useful as it demonstrates that most attempts to introduce more restrictive immigration policies by means of popular initiatives have failed. It is only in recent years that successes of anti-immigrant initiatives and referendums have become successful more frequently. Interestingly, this happens after a spell where more liberal immigration policy was supported in several votes — although the actual successes were exclusively about free movement of persons (=EU immigration).