Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #886

Immigration and Electoral Outcomes: Evidence from the 2015 Refugee Inflow to Germany

by Julia Bredtmann

RWI, 12/2020, 50 S./p., 10 Euro, ISBN 978-3-96973-025-6 DOI: 10.4419/96973025



This paper investigates the effects of the 2015 mass inflow of refugees to Germany on electoral outcomes. Specifically, using unique data on refugee populations and their type of accommodation, I analyze how local exposure to refugees affects the outcomes of the March 2016 state election – an election that was characterized by a strong surge in the electoral success of right-wing parties. For identification, I exploit quasi-random variation in the allocation of refugees across municipalities. The results show that an increase in the population share of refugees increases the vote share of right-wing parties and decreases the vote share of the incumbent federal government parties. The electoral effects, however, are solely driven by refugees living in centralized accommodation, and particularly by municipalities that host reception centers for refugees. These findings have important implications for the design of public policies in handling future receptions of refugees, as they reveal that an earlier transfer of refugees from centralized to decentralized accommodation could attenuate a growing support for right-wing parties.

JEL-Classification: D72, F22, J15, R23

Keywords: Immigration; refugees; political economy; voting