John A. Ferejohn, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
In many advanced democracies the major political parties have been disrupted either by the rise of new (populist) parties or by hostile takeovers. There is no shortage of plausible explanations: the incomplete recovery from the Great Recession, the impacts of globalization on local economies, and the rise of immigration may each have important roles. In this paper we argue that immigration attitudes have had a powerful impact on the strategic environment of political parties and leaders. While immigration attitudes may be substantially anchored in broader social attitudes, short run economic forces have played an important role in the recent emergence of immigration as a political issue. We show, based on evidence from a comparative study conducted by YouGov in Spring of 2015, that immigration attitudes had, by that time, driven a wedge between the major parties – those that regularly play a role in government – and their supporters. This “immigration gap” opened up enormous space for new political movements to form, either inside existing parties or outside. We suggest that the potential for this kind of destabilization of existing parties or party systems has probably been present for years and that it is rooted both in effects of the long term movement toward global and regional markets, as well as in the effects of shorter term responses to the Great Recession and its prolonged aftermath.
Please note: this is a co-authored paper with David Brady, Stanford & Aldo Paparo, Luiss
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