Does Election Salience Affect Immigrant Voter Turnout?

29 May 2020, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Faced with rising levels of cross-border migration, many democratic countries have extended local voting rights to non-naturalized immigrants in recent decades. However, the low turnout of enfranchised immigrants in these elections has come as a disappointment to the advocates of such reforms. In this study, we examine whether the low turnout can be explained by the low salience of local elections. Based on a regression discontinuity design and using high-quality Swedish registry data, we find this to be the case. According to our results, the average likelihood of voting increases by 10-20 percentage points once immigrants become eligible to vote in national elections. We demonstrate too that this effect is not driven by the acquisition of citizenship per se, and that the individual characteristics of immigrants cannot explain their overall lower rate of voter turnout.


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