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Ballot box. Photo credit: Arnaud Jaegers

Education and immigration are main primers for voter choices

The economists Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano and Thomas Piketty, who work at the World Inequality Lab at the Paris School of Economics, asked some interesting questions in a study published in early May. The three researchers collected data from several Western democracies. Immigrant voters distinguish themselves by choosing the left.

Published: June 13, 2021, 10:45 am

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    The result is a scientific study that actually provides revealing insights into long-term voter preferences and migration in a total of 21 Western democracies. The three scientists created a database that shows exactly how voters from different socio-economic backgrounds acted at the ballot box in over 300 elections between 1948 and 2020.

    Education as the most crucial criterion

    The authors present what is probably the most serious finding right at the start: In the 1950s and 1960s, voters with a low level of education and low incomes felt they had a close connection with “labour, social democratic, socialist and similar parties”. Gradually, however, the tie was broken. The voters of the left-wing parties increasingly consisted of more highly educated supporters.

    In terms of income, however, little has changed since the 1950s. High-income groups continue to flock to parties to the right of the centre. Although the difference between left and right converges here as well. In 2016 and 2020, the “top ten percent of income earners in the USA were more likely to vote for the Democratic Party for the first time since World War II”. And it is precisely the right-wing political parties that are critical of immigration in Europe that are increasingly attracting low-income citizens. The “merchant right”, however, as Piketty and his team call that high-income electorate, still feel most comfortable with conservative and liberal parties.

    Voter migration

    The development led to a “multi-elite party system” in the 2000s and 2010s, the authors write. What the three researchers mean by this is that elites with a high level of education now voted on the left, while elites with high incomes continued to vote on the right. “This transition has been accelerated by the rise of the green and anti-immigration movements, the main distinguishing feature of which is that they concentrate the votes of the electorate with higher and lower levels of education.

    Today’s voter preferences

    However, according to the study, the new system apparently resulted in an increased number of non-voters. In fact, according to the data, turnout by voters in the bottom 50 percent (for both education and income) has fallen sharply in a number of countries. The willingness to participate remained at a constant level among voters in the top 50 percent. This could “be interpreted as a sign that socially disadvantaged voters felt they were being left out by the rise of the ‘multi-elite’ party systems,” the authors conclude.

    At the same time, a look at the preferences for parties based on age, contradicts common clichés. “We couldn’t find any evidence that younger generations have become more left than they were in the 1950s,” the researchers note. Instead, however, one can see a noticeable reversal of the educational gap within the generations. “Older voters with a lower level of education continue to vote ‘along the class lines’ and thus support the left.” At the same time, social democratic and green parties have attracted a growing proportion of the electorate with a higher level of education among the youth.

    The gap between town and country as well as the religious gap “remained stable in most of the countries in our data set”. Rural areas and religious voters continued to support more conservative parties, just as they did in the 1950s to 1960s. “In other words, green parties may find more support from young, urban and non-religious voters, but that doesn’t make them fundamentally different from the traditional left. Education, not age, geography or religion, seems to be a more fundamental source of the reorientation of the party system,” the authors concluded.

    Who do Muslims choose?

    The study also takes a closer look at the voting behaviour of immigrants. The decolonization process in Western Europe caused an increase in immigration at an early stage. The opening of international borders, globalization and the refugee crisis from 2015 accelerated the influx from non-European countries. Many of these immigrants and their descendants acquired citizenship of the respective country, which also gave them the right to vote in national elections. The election statistics show that a significant proportion of the new citizens felt drawn to social democratic parties despite a lack of education.

    How do Muslims vote?

    According to the available data for the years 2010 to 2020, a “nativistic split” can be demonstrated, as the study highlighted. “We find that immigrants are generally much more supportive of social democratic and related parties than natives.” The difference is even greater if one only looks at Muslim voters. In Germany, a Muslim electoral vote is almost 25 percentage points more likely than a non-Muslim vote to go to the SPD, the Greens or the Left. In countries like Great Britain, Sweden or France, the proportion is even over 40 percent.

    This leads left-green parties to accelerate the naturalization of non-European, especially Muslim immigrants, in order to win over new voters.

    Universities are leftist incubators

    Another study by two German social scientists Matthias Revers and Richard Traunmüller, in 2020 showed the “surprisingly great willingness” of social science students to restrict freedom of expression, according to the FAZ. The alleged surprise about the result of the investigation is a great irony as many educational institutions today are controlled by woke leftists, suggesting that “education” could be likened to brainwashing.

    The President of the German Association of Universities, Bernhard Kempen, also complained about a “narrowed discourse corridor” at universities in Germany. Only topics such as “gender justice”, the “plight of refugees” and climate change are allowed while populists and anti-constitutionalists have no place there, Kempen told Deutschlandfunk last year.

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