Small reception centers are a tool that several European countries have adopted to deal with the recent refugee crisis. Research has documented heterogeneous effects of these centers on natives’ attitudes and voting behavior in national elections. This article takes a different perspective, assessing the impact of refugee reception on the strategies of anti-immigration parties in local politics. Combining a standard difference-in-differences and an instrumental variable approach, I show that the onset of refugee centers in Italian municipalities increases the probability that at least one far-right party competes for the municipal council. Furthermore, refugee reception boosts the likelihood of national far-right leaders visiting a municipality for propaganda. These findings show how refugee inflows, by increasing the salience of immigration in local elections, provide a focal point that drives the political investments of farright parties. Such dynamics can have important consequences for the geography of far-right success in the medium to long run.
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 2, Issue 3 Special Issue - The Political Economy of Populism, Part I
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