Saturday, May 21, 2016

20/5/16: Migrating Extremism: Long Run Impact on Voters Preferences


What happens when there is a systemic pattern of migration across borders and geographies that captures migration by political extremists?

This is neither a trivial question nor an esoteric one. It is non-trivial, because, to the best of my knowledge, we are yet to have a good understanding of what happens in the aftermath of military and political efforts to curb extremism. Curbing extremism pushes some of it into underground, but if attempts to curb extremism are not uniform across various geographies, it also incentivises selective migration of large numbers of extremists to those locations, where the efforts to curb their ideologies and behaviour are less strong. If so, when such a migration is feasible on large enough scale, asymmetric treatment of extremists across two geographies can lead to a concentration of extremists in that geography where they are treated more leniently.

This is the logic. What about the evidence?

Here is a fascinating study by Ochsner, Christian and Roesel, Felix, titled Migrating Extremists (March 10, 2016) published so far as a CESifo Working Paper (Series No. 5799: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2763513).

Quoting their abstract (emphasis is mine):


  • "We show that migrating extremists shape political landscapes toward their ideology in the long run
  • "We exploit the unexpected division of the state of Upper Austria into a US and a Soviet occupation zone after WWII. Zoning prompts large-scale Nazi migration to US occupied regions
  • "Regions that witnessed a Nazi influx exhibit significantly higher voting shares for the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) throughout the entire post-WWII period, but not before WWII. 
  • "We can exclude other channels that may have affected post-war elections, including differences in US and Soviet denazification and occupation policies, bomb attacks, Volksdeutsche refugees and suppression by other political parties. 
  • "We show that extremism is transmitted through family ties and local party branches. We find that the surnames of FPÖ local election candidates in 2015 in the former US zone are more prevalent in 1942 phonebook data (Reichstelefonbuch) of the former Soviet zone compared to other parties."
This is pretty much nuclear. Migration of individuals holding extremist beliefs, when systematically biased in favour of a specific location, does lead to concentration of extremist voters and such concentration is robust over time. Big lessons to be learned for today's migration regulation and institutional environment, as well as the systems of incentives and pressures that drive the migrant selection mechanisms.

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