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Electoral Rules or Electoral Leverage? Explaining Muslim Representation in England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2014

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Abstract

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Immigration has fundamentally altered the ethnic and religious makeup of most advanced democracies, but substantial variation is observed in the political representation of immigrant-origin minority groups across countries and cities. Though existing research has highlighted the role of electoral institutions in explaining minority representation, it is often difficult to isolate their effects across contexts. Focusing on Muslims in England and employing a new data set containing over 42,000 candidate-level observations, this article explains Muslim candidate election and selection. To do this, the author makes use of a rule change whereby a subset of localities switched from the use of multimember elections to the use of single-member elections. She finds that these electoral rules have no significant effect on the share of Muslims that gets elected but that they do influence the selection process: in a given election, Muslims are half as likely to be selected when only one seat is up for election as compared with when three seats are in play. Yet parties balance the slate across consecutive single-member elections, leading to similar results across systems. Further, the more undesirable the seat, the more likely it is to have a Muslim on the ticket, but this effect holds only in single-member elections, and it reverses as Muslims gain electoral leverage. Overall electoral leverage proves crucial: the effect of institutions and the potential for institution-based discrimination are conditional on the size and concentration of the local Muslim population and the votes it can deliver at both the election and the selection stages.

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Research Article
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Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2014 
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