Does exposure to the refugee crisis fuel support for extreme-right parties? Despite heated debates about the political repercussions of the refugee crisis in Europe, there exists very little—and sometimes conflicting—evidence with which to assess the impact of a large influx of refugees on natives’ political attitudes and behavior. We provide causal evidence from a natural experiment in Greece, where some Aegean islands close to the Turkish border experienced sudden and drastic increases in the number of Syrian refugees while other islands slightly farther away—but with otherwise similar institutional and socioeconomic characteristics—did not. Placebo tests suggest that precrisis trends in vote shares for exposed and nonexposed islands were virtually identical. This allows us to obtain unbiased estimates of the electoral consequences of the refugee crisis. Our study shows that among islands that faced a massive but transient inflow of refugees passing through just before the September 2015 election, vote shares for Golden Dawn, the most extreme-right party in Europe, moderately increased by 2 percentage points (a 44 percent increase at the average). The finding that mere exposure to the refugee crisis is sufficient to fuel support for extreme-right parties has important implications for our theoretical understanding of the drivers of antirefugee backlash.
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