Adapting to party lines: the effect of party affiliation on attitudes to immigration

Public opinion on immigration is increasingly relevant for political behaviour. However, little is known about the way in which citizens’ political allegiances in turn shape their attitudes to immigration. Abundant existing evidence suggests that voters often take cues from the parties they support. Using panel data from the Netherlands and Sweden, this article investigates the dynamic relation between attitudes to immigration and party preferences. The longitudinal nature of the data allows for making stronger claims about causal mechanisms than previous cross-sectional studies. The analysis shows that voters who change their preference to the Radical Right become stricter on immigration, whereas voters changing to the Greens become less strict on immigration over time. This confirms that citizens’ support for anti- and pro-immigration parties results in a ‘radicalisation’ of their views on immigration along party lines. A similar ‘spiral’ of radicalisation can be found around the issue of European integration.