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Accepted Paper:

An improbable commitment? - Why immigrants participate in anti-immigration parties  


Leonie Mugglin (University of Neuch√Ętel)
Simon Mastrangelo (University of Neuch√Ętel)

Paper short abstract:

Citizens with an immigration background (IB) are viewed as mostly leaning towards leftist political parties. Little is known about IB citizens who vote for and are active in populist radical right-wing parties, which pursue an anti-immigration agenda.

Paper long abstract:

While the political engagement of IB citizens in right-wing parties may seem contradictory at first glance, several examples of IB citizen groups supporting anti-immigration politics have emerged (e.g. "Latinos for Trump" in the U.S., "Neudeutsche" in Germany, "Neue Heimat Schweiz" in Switzerland).

Leaning on the concepts of boundary-making, as well as ascribed and self-defined identities, this paper explores the reasons for IB citizens to participate politically and to join anti-immigration parties.

Our empirical analysis looks at the case of Switzerland, a country where one-fourth of the population are foreign nationals and one in eight citizens hold two passports. However, Switzerland adopts strict immigration and naturalization laws. Furthermore, the most successful political party in Switzerland is the Swiss People's Party, a populist right-wing party which owes its electoral success to its anti-immigration and anti-Islam agenda initiated in the 1990s.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with IB citizens involved in the Swiss People's Party, we show how self and party identification, political socialization, migratory experience, political beliefs as well as rationalized boundary-making towards other IB groups and parties play into their commitment to this anti-immigration party.

The results raise questions about the gaps between ascribed and self-defined identities, the role of boundary-making in defining new identities, and the democratic legitimacy of the current political party system.

Panel P131
Getting 'the Right' right: Comparative ethnographies of neo-nationalist movements in Europe