New publication: How South African Parties Do Not Politicize Immigration in Their Manifestos

I am happy to announce a new publication on how South African parties do not politicize immigration in their electoral manifestos, despite many indications that we can expect them to do so. In a country where xenophobia appears widespread, we can expect political parties to politicize immigration and take positions against immigrants.

In this paper, I wanted to do two things. On a methodological side, I wanted to know whether the approaches to coding electoral manifestos we have developed in the context of European parties works elsewhere. I have applied them to the US context, but South Africa would provide a tougher test. The keyword tests worked fine, and the qualitative discussions with colleagues were encouraging to press on. On a substantive side, I wanted to know whether South African parties as parties drive politicization, or whether individual politicians do so. The systematic analysis of the electoral manifestos reveals that parties as organizations do not politicize much against immigrants and immigration. In this sense, we cannot find evidence for this supposedly perverse upshot of the post-apartheid nation-building project where parties would politicize against immigrants to bolster internal cohesion: not parties as formal organizations. From other research and the media we know, though, that individual politicians certainly play a role in politicizing immigration in South Africa.

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘South African Parties Hardly Politicise Immigration in Their Electoral Manifestos’. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 46 (1).

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa: Personality and Vulnerability’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (7): 1108–26.

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2018. ‘Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods’. Party Politics OnlineFirst.

Supplementary Material for “Estimating Party Positions” on OSF/SocArXiv

I have just made available the supplementary material for Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2017. “Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods.” Party Politics available on OSF/SocArXiv. The supplement is also available at the publisher’s website, together with the article. In the paper, we systematically assess various methods to identify the position political parties take on immigration. In another paper about to be published by Party Politics, Christoffer Green-Pedersen and Simon Otjes demonstrate that immigration really has become more salient over time. All the more important it is to place parties on this issue, and our extensive evaluation finds high consistency between expert surveys, manual sentence-by-sentence coding and manual ‘checklist’ coding. On the other hand, there are inconsistent results with the CMP/MARPOR, Wordscores, Wordfish, and a dictionary approach using keywords.

Green-Pedersen, Christoffer, and Simon Otjes. 2017. “A Hot Topic? Immigration on the Agenda in Western Europe.” Party Politics, doi:10.1177/1354068817728211.

Ruedin, Didier and Laura Morales. 2017. “Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods”. Party Politics. doi:10.1177/1354068817713122

The Discrimination of Multilingual People — A Gem from Coding Manifestos

I have mentioned the different literary styles of party manifestos earlier. Today I simply wanted to share a gem I came across: “Bei Ausbildung, Jobchancen und Wohnungssuche begegnen viele mehrsprachige Menschen nach wie vor Barrieren.” (In English: When it comes to education, job opportunities and house hunting, many multilingual people are still met by barriers.)

Pause for a second. We’re looking at parts of the party manifesto about immigrants. To the authors words like foreigner or immigrant must have sounded too negative. They surely don’t mean the discrimination of polyglots because they speak many languages; they mean discrimination of foreigners who may not speak German (well).

This sentence is a gem as it illustrates the current debate on immigration: the tendency to see it in black and white picture. Immigrants are either seen as problems (I guess that’s black), or problems that come with immigration are denied (that’s white). Obviously there are many (more differentiated) positions in between, but somewhat they do tend to disappear in the public debate, and worse: among many academics.

The Literary Styles of Party Manifestos

It’s sometimes said that nobody really reads party manifestos, yet they are recognized as essential texts in political science. What is more, we often use computers to interact with party manifestos, or code them sentence by sentence — in which case it is easy to lose track of the overall manifesto.

One thing that is lost is the fact that the literary styles (should I call them genres?) of party manifestos vary significantly between parties. Some of the party manifestos read like (PowerPoint) business presentation full of bullet points and phrases that are really just assertions. Quite different are party manifestos that read like essays university graduates are required to write: an argument is developed, and policies are clearly justified with reference to some underlying principle. There are also differences between countries, which begin with the typical length of a party manifesto — anything between a leaflet and a full book-sized manifesto.

Obviously in most applications we don’t care about the literary styles of party manifestos, but there is certainly scope to research this topic a bit more systematically than getting impressions from actually reading party manifestos. There is probably something to learn about the authors of party manifestos.

Politicizing Immigration

Just three weeks before the Swiss vote on “stopping mass immigration“, and still reeling off the fact that research on immigration in Switzerland has received a substantial (financial) boost, I found it refreshing to read (and code) more party manifestos this week. Apparently the definition of a political party includes something on having policy positions on more than one issue. Working in an area so highly politicized, it is easy to forget that there are other issues we can quarrel about. It is in this sense that reading for example Irish manifestos was so refreshing: so many other issues were included (e.g. providing good services to citizens, boosting tourism), somehow immigration didn’t even fit in — a reminder that there is more to politics.