Low-skilled immigration increases support for far-right parties, say EconPol researchers

| Press release

Immigration increases support for far-right political candidates and reduces support for far-left candidates, with areas with low-educated non-European immigrants providing the biggest boost to the far-right. These are the conclusions of a paper released by EconPol Europe.

In the paper, forthcoming in the June issue of the European Economic Review, researchers examined to what extent changes in immigration and trade patterns explain voting for far-left and far-right candidates in French presidential elections from 1988 until 2017. They control for the effects of changes in unemployment, education, and demographics.

Low-educated voters in particular, they found, are worried about labor market competition caused by immigration and are more likely to vote for far-right candidates as a result. The skills level and ethnicity of immigrants is also a major driver in increased support for far-right candidates, with low-educated non-European immigrants boosting far-right support. This effect was particularly strong when analyzing immigration from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, highlighting the importance of immigrants’ cultural background.

The positive impact on far-right support is weaker among high-educated voters. An increase in the population share of high-educated immigrants also reduces far-right support.

The joint effect of the Eurozone economic crisis and the refugee crisis has been to increase both far-left and far-right voting. The result that high-skilled immigration does not increase far-right voting is encouraging from the policy perspective, say the authors of the research. As far-right voting responds primarily to low-educated immigration, policies promoting high-educated immigration are less likely to suffer from a political backlash, even if immigrants do come from non-Western countries of origin.

French politics is an ideal setting in which to test the role of immigration and economic concerns in the rise of far-left and far-right voting more generally, say the report’s authors. Front National has run and won more than 10% of votes, in all French presidential elections since 1988. Far-left candidates have won more than 10% of votes in all presidential elections since 1988, apart from 2007. This allows panel data analysis of the role that immigration plays in explaining changes in far-left and far-right candidates’ electoral success.

Read the full paper: http://www.econpol.eu/publications/working_paper_24

For further information about the paper, contact Panu Poutvaara at Poutvaara@ifo.de or on +49 89 9224-1372.