Publication: South African Parties Hardly Politicise Immigration in Their Electoral Manifestos

I’m happy to announce that my article on the positions South African parties take on immigration in their electoral manifestos is now properly published. It features political partices and the rainbow nation!

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘South African Parties Hardly Politicise Immigration in Their Electoral Manifestos’. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 46 (2): 206–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2019.1608713.

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). https://doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2019.1608713.

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa: Personality and Vulnerability’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (7): 1108–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2018.1428086.

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2018. ‘Estimating Party Positions on Immigration: Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Different Methods’. Party Politics OnlineFirst. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068817713122.

Why PR systems might be good for women

Scholars often claim that having a proportional representation (PR) system leads to a better inclusion of women and other minorities of power in national legislatures. Typically, we refer to the larger districts found in PR systems (e.g. Lijphart 1994, Rule and Zimmerman 1994, Katz 1997). Why do we find an association between district magnitude (the size of the electoral districts) and including more women in the legislature?

At a superficial level, we know that more candidates are picked in larger districts. This increases the likelihood that one of the women among the candidates is elected. To understand this increased probability we need to make an assumption — something rarely spelled out: We need to assume that there are only a few women standing — which is quite reasonable in most contexts. We also need to assume that women are less likely to be at the top of the ballot — which is the same as assuming that men are more likely to be at the top of the ballot.

Here are three situations to illustrate this. In situation 1, men are more likely at the top than women. Stating the obvious, this means that the men are more likely to be elected. We can imagine majoritarian systems as districts where (by definition) only the candidate at the top is picked (and then only of one of the parties). In this sense, there is nothing inherently beneficial in proportional representation as a system, or the underlying larger district magnitude: the system interacts with the placement of candidates.

In situation 2, we have a larger district, thus a larger number of candidates are elected. In the graphic, this means we reach further down the list. We have the same ballots where men are more likely at the top, but by reaching further down a woman is elected.

In situation 3, we have the same district magnitude as in situation 2 (4 candidates are elected), but there is now a third party. In terms of picking women, this is equivalent to having smaller districts, because we no longer reach as far down the lists.

With these three situations, we can also understand the concept of party magnitude introduced by Matland (1993). He argued that causally speaking, party magnitude is closer to the inclusion of women in legislatures than the district magnitude. We can calculate the party magnitude by dividing the district magnitude by the number of parties in the districts. With this, Matland implicitly acknowledged situation 3 here, and made the same fundamental assumptions outlined above: Men are more likely to take the top spot of party lists than women are. The concept of party magnitude combines the two effects of (a) reaching further down the lists when the district magnitude is large, and (b) not reaching as far down the lists when many parties are competing.

Once we have understood these two mechanisms, it is clear why the effects of party magnitude are temporarily limited — assuming a general trend towards including more women in legislatures. Matland acknowledges this limitation, but does not spell out why it exists. When few women are included on the ballots, the effect of party magnitude is limited. In this case, the likelihood of electing a woman is low, irrespective of the number of parties or the district magnitude. As more women are included, we can observe a stronger association with party magnitude. This is because of the two mechanisms: (a) more women are elected where the districts are larger, and (b) more women are elected where the number of parties is smaller. However, if women are as common as candidates as men and women are equally likely to appear at the top of the ballot, the association is low. In this case, the likelihood of electing a woman approaches 50%.

PR systems might be good for women not because of an inherent advantage, but because the larger district magnitude (which is inherent in the system) combined with candidate selection and candidate placement can increase the probability of electing women into legislatures. Put differently, just like in majoritarian systems, candidate selection and candidate placement are driving the association. Beyond specifying the mechanism, this exercise also highlights that political parties and party elites play such an important role in making sure women get into electable positions.

The literature sometimes insists on closed PR lists. This is only relevant inasmuch as the parties and party elite include more women on the ballot than the population would support or — and that’s possibly quite important — with a population that does not care enough about gender to make it a priority in elections (i.e. gender is not sufficiently salient). If we imagine a society with conservative party elites and a progressive electorate (or where the party elite assumes the population to be more conservative as they are), closed PR lists would be detrimental.

Why do we care? Having a PR system in itself is a poor explanation for changes in the inclusion of women in legislatures as we observe them across the world. By focusing on the role of political parties and the political elite may be more fruitful in understanding changes. With this, we should also research why some countries have PR systems in the first place — it might be a reflection of a more inclusive culture or tradition, something which might still be reflected in present day political behaviour, but difficult to disentangle empirically.

Katz, R. 1997. ‘Representational Roles’. European Journal of Political Research 32: 211–26.
Lijphart, A. 1994. Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945–1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Matland, R. 1993. ‘Institutional Variables Affecting Female Representation in National Legislatures: The Case of Norway’. Journal of Politics 55: 737–55.
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Rule, W., and J. Zimmerman, eds. 1994. Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities. Westport: Greenwood Press.

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.

Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland

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I had the pleasure to read Oliver Gruber‘s new book Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland. Focusing on Austria — home of the FPÖ — Oliver provides a detailed picture of party competition around an increasingly salient issue: immigration. The book is exceptional in that it starts in 1971 and thus is able to trace how the issue and party politics around it have evolved. Intriguing is for example how immigration has moved from the Greens towards the FPÖ in terms of salience, yet in terms of frames used there was no comparable shift. I will surely refer to it whenever my own research on the politicization of immigration touches Austria.

With a dual focus on party manifestos and press releases, Oliver’s results are surely robust, and with attention paid to twenty or so different subtopics and ten frames, Oliver heeds Joost Berkhout and my call to pay more attention to this level of analysis.

I was intrigued by the detailed frame analysis, and how frames were used to infer party positions. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare my own manifesto-based party positions with Oliver’s frames-based ones, but at first glance the different methods agree.

While it delivers on depth and attention to developments over time, the book doesn’t offer much in terms of comparison to other countries. I would have liked a full discussion of how the findings in Austria translate to other cases — especially because I am convinced there’s much to be learned. In this sense I can only recommend the forthcoming book from the SOM project, which includes Austria alongside six other Western European countries (it’ll come out soon with Routledge).

Oliver shows that the politicization of immigration is driven by party ideology and issue ownership. With developments over time covered in detail, the book will offer new insights to those interested in party competition and how the mainstream parties react to a popular challenger like the FPÖ.

Gruber, Oliver. 2014. Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland: The Politicization of Immigration and Ethnic Relations in Austrian General Elections, 1971 – 2013. Zürich: LIT Verlag. ISBN: 9783643905178

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2012. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration from Party Manifestos.” Presented at EPOP.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration in Switzerland: Comparing Different Methods.” Swiss Political Science Review 19(1):84–105. DOI: 10.1111/spsr.12018

Van der Brug, Wouter, Gianni D’Amato, Joost Berkhout, and Didier Ruedin, eds. 2015 (forthcoming). The Politicisation of Immigration: A Comparative Study of Seven Countries (1995-2009). Routledge.