Making the government accountable: rethinking immigration as an issue in the European Union
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEuropean Politics and Society. 2021, 22 (1), 140-159. 10.1080/23745118.2020.1752453
In the last decades, European countries have experienced two relevant waves of immigration. These ‘immigration shocks’ have contributed to increase dramatically public attention on immigration issues but also to structure political competition on both the supply and the demand side of democratic representation. While immigration issue has been traditionally conceived as a positional issue, the consensus among voters and the policy convergence of mainstream parties seem to resemble Stokes’ model and competition is on a valence issue instead of position issue. Therefore, the present paper analyses whether and to what extent voters punish incumbents for high levels of immigration. Using data from the European Election Study, the analysis confirms that while voters perceiving high levels of immigration punish incumbents, performance voting depends on individual-level attributes such as partisanship and salience, but also country-level factors like the government clarity of responsibility. Finally, immigration performance voting is not moderated by issue ownership. However, the perceived competence of parties to manage immigration reveals a direct and independent effect on incumbent vote intention.