“Why Don’t Immigrants Vote More?” — Participation in Local Elections Published

paMy paper on the electoral participation of immigrants in local elections is now available online (Parliamentary Affairs). As part of this research, I spoke to a politician who exclaimed: ‘Why don’t they [immigrants] vote now that we have given them the opportunity?’. It’s the expectation that all ‘we’ have to do is enfranchise immigrants, and they’ll flock to the ballot boxes. But, they don’t.

In the paper I present a new representative survey of participation in the 2015 municipal elections in the Canton of Geneva. The cleaned data (and replication material) are available at IQSS Dataverse; the raw data at FORS.

In Geneva, foreign citizens who have lived in Switzerland for at least 8 years have the right to vote in local elections. In 2015, the chancellor wrote a personal letter to each of them to invite them to vote, yet most immigrant groups vote less than the majority population. In the paper I test four common explanations for this difference in electoral turnout: social origin (resources), political engagement, civic integration and networks, as well as socialisation. Individually, all these explanations are associated with differences in electoral participation, but contrary to some recent studies, substantive differences between nationalities remain in the local elections in Geneva.

Member Commitment in Political Parties

This is something someone could examine empirically. I think we can use the argument developed by Dan Olson in “Why Do Small Religious Groups Have More Committed Members” (Review of Religious Research. 49(4): 353-378.) and apply it to political parties (or any organization). The argument that (religious) groups located in areas where their members are a smaller proportion of the population have more committed members. If we translate this to political parties, this means member commitment in relatively small parties should be stronger. Dan Olson argues that these groups have higher rates of leaving and joining, processes that select for more committed members. Congregations with higher membership turnover rates have current members that are more committed (they attend service, they give money). If we translate this to political parties, member commitment should be higher in parties with higher membership turnover.

Simulation of Political Participation

milbrathSome things take time; but I have finally made available the full NetLogo code of an agent-based model that simulates different levels of political participation. In the process, I have attempted to use the ODD protocol to describe the simulation. Further description about my implementation of Milbrath’s model of political participation here, here, and here.

The simulation tackles the different levels of political participation to which individuals can be involved in politics: anything between being apathetic and uninterested in politics to holding a political office. It follows Milbrath’s description of the processes and mechanisms as closely as feasible, and results in a realistic dynamic equilibrium. Only one “ladder” of political participation is used, and apparently this works well enough. So yes, I can grow it…

Milbrath, L. 1960. “Predispositions toward Political Contention.” Western Political Quarterly XIII:5–18.

Milbrath, L. 1965. Political Participation: How and Why Do People Get Involved in Politics? Chicago: Rand McNally College Publishing Company.

Milbrath, L., and M. Goel. 1977. Political Participation: How and Why Do People Get Involved in Politics? Boston: Rand McNally College Publishing Company.

Ruedin, Didier. 2007. “Testing Milbrath’s 1965 Framework of Political Participation: Institutions and Social Capital.” Contemporary Issues and Ideas in Social Sciences 3(3).

Ruedin, Didier. 2011. “The Role of Social Capital in the Political Participation of Immigrants: Evidence from Agent-Based Modelling.” SFM Discussion Paper 27.