Previous research suggests that client politics shape national migration laws in that they converge toward more liberal regulations. An examination of recently released cross-country data suggests, however, that there is little support for either convergence or generally more open policies. Trying to shed light on this empirical puzzle, I argue that democratic policymakers have incentives to listen to, and pursue policies that are favored by, the ‘unorganized’ electorate as well, since this maximizes their chances of staying in power. However, due to the influence of client interests that work against the public’s view on migration, a positive effect should only materialize under more salient circumstances, that is, when the inflow of foreign-born individuals is high. I analyze these expectations quantitatively using data that combine information on national migration policies with all European Social Survey rounds in 2002–2016. I find robust and significant support for public opinion influencing domestic immigration laws, but this effect only emerges with rather large migrant and refugee populations in the country.
SOURCE: Tobias Böhmelt. “How public opinion steers national immigration policies.” Migration Studies, 29 August 2019.
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