Brothers or Invaders? How Crises-driven Migrants Shape Voting Behavior

Sandra Rozo and Juan F. Vargas


This paper explores the motivations driving negative political attitudes of local voters towards immigration, specifically whether these attitudes can be explained by self-interest or sociotropic motives. Self-interested voters predominantly care about the impact of immigration on their personal economic status, while sociotropic voters view immigrants as a threat to local cultural or social norms. The paper focuses on Colombia, which permits the analysis of both internal displacement and international migration on voter behavior. The authors exploit the fact that both IDPs and international migrants (displaced by the crisis in neighboring Venezuela) disproportionately locate in municipalities with early settlements of individuals from their town of origin. The authors find that, while internal displacement does not affect voting behavior, international migration reduces support for the incumbent party and increases support for right-wing candidates. These results are consistent with political attitudes being driven by sociotropic motives, and cannot be accounted for by other socio-economic impacts (e.g. crime or economic growth) of migration flows on receiving municipalities. The authors conclude that negative political perceptions about migrants are not explained by detrimental economic effects on local populations, but rather are more likely associated with the perception that migrants with different nationalities, races, or religions are a threat to local social or cultural norms.