Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 November 2011
Little is known about how immigrants participate in politics and whether they transform political engagement in contemporary democracies. This study investigates whether citizenship (as opposed to being foreign-born) affects political and civic engagement beyond the voting booth. It is argued that citizenship should be understood as a resource that enhances participation and helps immigrants overcome socialization experiences that are inauspicious for political engagement. The analysis of the European Social Survey data collected in nineteen European democracies in 2002–03 reveals that citizenship has a positive impact on political participation. Moreover, citizenship is a particularly powerful determinant of un-institutionalized political action among individuals who were socialized in less democratic countries. These findings have important implications for debates over the definition of and access to citizenship in contemporary democracies.
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8 Unless they were born to American parents on American territory abroad (e.g., military bases, embassies, and the like).
9 Weil, Patrick, ‘Access to Citizenship: A Comparison of Twenty Five Nationality Laws’, in T. Alexander Aleinikoff and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds, Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C.), 17–35Google Scholar; Morjé Howard, Marc, The Politics of Citizenship in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Brubaker, Rogers, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992)Google Scholar.
10 This is the case even in studies that examine a broader range of political activities (see Junn, Jane, ‘Participation in Liberal Democracy: The Political Assimilation of Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities in the United States’, American Behavioral Scientist, 42 (1999), 1417–1438CrossRefGoogle Scholar). Leighley, Jan E. and Vedlitz, Arnold (‘Race, Ethnicity, and Political Participation: Competing Models and Contrasting Explanations’, Journal of Politics, 61 (1999), 1092–1114CrossRefGoogle Scholar) acknowledge the importance of citizenship, but also rely on native-born status as a proxy for citizenship, thus similarly leaving aside the fact that some foreign-born individuals are citizens.
11 DeSipio, ‘Making Citizens or Good Citizens?’ We do not mean to single out this particular study. Instead, we use it to illustrate a larger point. It has been similarly suggested that citizenship acquisition in Canada should have a ‘politicizing’ effect on political participation (see Black, Jerome H., ‘Immigrant Political Adaptation in Canada: Some Tentative Findings’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 15 (1982), 3–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar), and this expectation is consistent with research showing that citizenship has a positive impact on partisanship acquisition (see Wong, Janelle S., ‘The Effects of Age and Political Exposure on the Development of Party Identification among Asian American and Latino Immigrants in the United States’, Political Behavior, 22 (2000), 341–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cain, Bruce E., Roderick Kiewiet, D. and Uhlaner, Carole J., ‘The Acquisition of Partisanship by Latinos and Asian Americans’, American Journal of Political Science, 35(1991), 390–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar).
12 Junn, ‘Participation in Liberal Democracy’; Cho, ‘Naturalization, Socialization, Participation: Immigrants and Non(Voting)’; Ramakrishnan and Espenshade, ‘Immigrant Incorporation and Political Participation in the United States’, p. 888.
13 According to prevailing theorizing and evidence, this result is rooted in a lack of familiarity with the political system among individuals socialized in a different country and more shallow attachments to local community, associations and political parties. Moreover, foreign-born individuals usually have fewer emotional and material stakes in existing group tensions that express themselves in politics in their new home country. And there are practical reasons for the lower involvement of the foreign-born as well, as they are often preoccupied with settling into the new country and have less time for political involvement. Some assume that foreigners are less politically involved because they are more orientated towards politics in their homeland than are other immigrants. Empirical evidence suggests, however, that ties to a home country do not matter as much for political participation as attachment to the host country ( Lien, Pei-te, ‘Ethnicity and Political Participation: A Comparison between Asian and Mexican Americans’, Political Behavior, 16 (1994), 237–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar). Moreover, others demonstrate that Mexican immigrants in the United States who send money home are actually more politically involved in US politics than those who do not ( Barreto, Matt A. and Muñoz, José A., ‘Reexamining the “Politics of In-Between”: Political Participation Among Mexican Immigrants in the United States’, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25 (2003), 427–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar).
14 While studies conducted in the United States and Denmark suggest that foreign-born citizens and non-citizens engage in a variety of political acts, the evidence is equivocal with regard to whether they do so at similar or different rates when immigrant experiences and socio-economic differences are accounted for. See Barreto and Muñoz, ‘Reexamining the “Politics of In-Between” ’; Togeby, ‘It Depends … Immigrants in Denmark’, Lien, ‘Ethnicity and Political Participation’; Leal, David, ‘Political Participation by Latino Non-Citizens in the United States’, British Journal of Political Science, 32 (2002), 353–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
15 See, for instance, Deth, Jan W., Montero, José Ramón and Westholm, Anders, eds, Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies: A Comparative Analysis (London: Routledge, 2007)Google Scholar; Pattie, Charles, Seyd, Patrick and Whiteley, Paul, Citizenship in Britain: Values, Participation and Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bloemraad, Irene, Korteweg, Anna and Yurdakul, Gökçe, ‘Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, and Challenges to the Nation-State’, Annual Review of Sociology, 34 (2008), 153–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
16 Westholm, Anders, Montero, José Ramón and van Deth, Jan W., ‘Introduction: Citizenship, Involvement, and Democracy in Europe’, in van Deth, Montero and Westholm, eds, Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies, pp. 1–32Google Scholar, at p. 3.
17 Dynneson, Thomas L., Civism: Cultivating Citizenship in European History (New York: Peter Lang, 2001)Google Scholar.
18 Bloemraad, Korteweg and Yurdakul, ‘Citizenship and Immigration’.
19 Benhabib, Seyla, ‘Political Theory and Political Membership in a Changing World’, in Ira Katznelson and Helen V. Milner, eds, Political Science: State of the Discipline (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2002), 404–432Google Scholar.
20 In most countries, only citizens are eligible to vote. Citizens of EU member states have the right to vote in and stand for local elections in other EU member states if they reside there. However, this right is not conferred to non-EU citizens (also referred to as third-country nationals), nor does it apply to national elections.
21 Martinez, Lisa (‘Yes We Can: Latino Participation in Unconventional Politics’, Social Forces, 84 (2005), 135–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 144) finds that citizenship has a positive and statistically significant impact on Latino protest behaviour in the United States and suggests that non-citizens might associate protesting with higher costs, such as fear of deportation or imprisonment. Her models, and models reported in other studies, however, fail to control for a number of immigrant-specific variables, such as the amount of time foreign-born respondents have spent in the United States. These variables, as we show below, have important consequences for the impact of citizenship on non-electoral participation.
22 Non-citizens may occasionally have important grounds to be politically involved in their host country. After all, regardless of their legal status, they are affected by their host country's domestic policies, not the least of which is anti-immigrant legislation (Barreto and Muñoz, ‘Reexamining the “Politics of In-Between” ’). Research also shows that non-citizens are often concerned with their host country's foreign policies towards their country of origin, thus motivating their political engagement ( de la Garza, Rodolfo O. and Pachon, Harry, Latinos and US Foreign Policy: Representing the “Homeland”? (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)Google Scholar). Since non-citizens are barred from expressing themselves in national elections, non-electoral participation may be an important channel for communicating their demands to policy makers. However, we do not believe that such occasional motivations on average outweigh the more systematic effects of citizenship we posit.
23 As a consequence of the expected higher rate of participation by citizens, citizenship should also be associated with higher levels of civic skills acquired through the exercise of obligations and responsibilities, which are thought to contribute positively to people's civic orientations and political engagement through a process of socialization, education and interaction with government authorities ( Johnston Conover, Pamela, Crewe, Ivor M. and Searing, Donald D., ‘The Nature of Citizenship and Great Britain: Empirical Comments on Theoretical Themes’, Journal of Politics, 53 (1991), 800–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pamela Johnston Conover, Searing, Donald D. and Crewe, Ivor, ‘The Elusive Ideal of Equal Citizenship: Political Theory and Political Psychology in the United States and Great Britain’, Journal of Politics, 66 (2004), 1036–1068Google Scholar; Pattie, Seyd and Whiteley, Citizenship in Britain).
24 Barnes, Samuel and Kaase, Max with Allerbeck, Klaus, Farah, Barbara, Heunks, Felix, Inglehart, Ronald, Kent Jennings, M., Klingemann, Hans-Dieter, Marsh, Alan and Rosenmayr, Leopold, Political Action: Mass Participation in Five Western Democracies (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1979)Google Scholar; Muller, Edward N., ‘A Test of a Partial Theory of Potential for Political Violence’, American Political Science Review, 66 (1972), 928–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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26 Ramakrishnan, Karthick S., Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005)Google Scholar; Cho, Gimpel and Wu, ‘Clarifying the Role of SES in Political Participation’.
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29 Black, Jerome H., ‘The Practice of Politics in Two Settings: Political Transferability Among Recent Immigrants to Canada’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 20 (1987), 731–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Black, Niemi and Powell, ‘Age and Resistance to Political Learning in a New Environment’; Finifter, Ada and Finifter, Bernard, ‘Party Identification and Political Adaptation of American Migrants in Australia’, Journal of Politics, 51 (1989), 599–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bueker, ‘Political Incorporation among Immigrants from Ten Areas of Origin’; Wilson, Paul, Immigrants and Politics (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1973)Google Scholar.
30 Occasionally, researchers have suggested that those raised in undemocratic environments may in fact be more politically involved in the receiving (democratic) country because they have a greater appreciation for democratic rights and opportunities to influence politics. For example, some point to the fact that Cuban Americans participate at higher rates than other Latino immigrants (Alejandro Portes and Rafael Mozo, ‘The Political Adaptation Process of Cubans and Other Ethnic Minorities in the United States: A Preliminary Analysis’, International Migration Review, 19 (1985), 35–63; Arvizu and Garcia, ‘Latino Voting Participation’; DeSipio, ‘Making Citizens or Good Citizens?’), or the behaviour of East Europeans who came to the United States and Canada during the Cold War ( Greeley, Andrew M., Ethnicity in the United States: A Preliminary Reconnaissance (New York: Wiley, 1974)Google Scholar; Black, ‘The Practice of Politics in Two Settings’). These contrasting perspectives may not be incompatible if the majority of immigrants from less democratic countries are political refugees. Having migrated for political reasons, refugees may possess a keener sense how politics impacts their daily lives (Ramakrishnan, Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation, p. 88; Portes and Mozo, ‘The Political Adaptation Process of Cubans and Other Ethnic Minorities in the United States’). Moreover, some argue that those who qualify for refugee assistance from government may develop greater skills and experience from interacting with government agencies and a greater stake in domestic politics as it relates to their continued receipt of such benefits (Ramakrishnan, Democracy in Immigrant America, p. 88). Yet others insist that even individuals who migrate from less to more democratic countries primarily for economic reasons might have an appreciation of democracy. For instance, Barreto and Muñoz (‘Reexamining the “Politics of In-Between” ’, p. 432) claim that Mexicans who arrived in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s were escaping not only a depressed economy but also a polity in which one-party rule had been the norm for 70 years (see also Massey, Douglas S., ‘Why Does Immigration Occur? A Theoretical Synthesis’, in Charles Hirschman, Philip Kasinitz and Josh DeWind, eds, The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1999), pp. 34–52Google Scholar.
31 Caul Kittilson, Miki, ‘Research Resources in Comparative Political Behavior’, in Russell J. Dalton and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 865–899Google Scholar.
33 We differentiated individuals by the following regions of origin: Africa, Asia, the Balkans, East Central Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and Western Europe. For more details about individual countries, please contact the authors.
34 Pooling data across countries is particularly useful for the purpose of our analyses because the number of foreign-born respondents in any one national survey is relatively small, making it difficult to estimate multivariate models of participation with much precision.
35 We dropped Poland and Hungary from the sample because they lacked variation on the citizenship variable: in Poland, all respondents were coded as citizens; in Hungary, there were only three (native-born) non-citizens.
36 Considering the diversity of countries and participatory acts, these items scale quite well, with a Cronbach's alpha of 0.69 among all respondents and 0.73 among foreigners (for details on question wording and variable coding, see Appendix).
37 We follow the distinction made by Barnes and Kaase (Political Action); see also Dalton, Russell J., Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, 4th edn (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006)Google Scholar.
38 Because native-born non-citizens constituted only a very small number of cases (206), we dropped them from the analysis for statistical reasons.
39 Polity IV is a widely used dataset of regime characteristics that provides comparative data for virtually all countries in the world on an annual basis between 1800 and 2007.
40 The original polity score ranges from −10 to +10.
41 Cf. Snijders, Tom A. B. and Bosker, Roel, Multilevel Analysis: An Introduction to Basic and Advanced Multilevel Modeling (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1999)Google Scholar; for applications in political science, see Steenbergen, Marco R. and Jones, Bradford S., ‘Modeling Multilevel Data Structures’, American Journal of Political Science, 46 (2002), 218–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
42 We sought to ensure the robustness of these inferences by examining whether our results were sensitive to the inclusion of any particular country; this was not the case.
43 Variables such as discrimination and criminal victimization may capture some of these experiences if they are more prevalent among immigrants than native-born individuals. Our data show that 15 per cent of foreign-born individuals report being a member of a group that is being discriminated against, while about 5 per cent of native-born individuals agree that this is the case. And about 21 per cent of native-born respondents report being the victim of a crime within the past five years, while about 22 per cent of foreign-born individuals say they have been the victim of a crime. Regardless of these statistics, because immigrants and non-immigrants share these experiences, they do not serve to separate these groups exclusively.
44 When we compare the impact of traditional explanations of political participation (socio-economic characteristics and civic attitudes) vis-à-vis more immigrant-specific variables, we find that the power of traditional explanations is not diminished by accounting for immigrants’ experiences. This demonstrates that understanding the immigrant experience complements rather than replaces existing explanations of political action. Interestingly, the ease with which citizens are able to acquire citizenship, as measured by the citizenship policy index, does not affect immigrants’ political engagement.
45 Highton and Burris, ‘New Perspectives on Latino Voter Turnout in the United States’, p. 290; Liang, Zai, ‘Social Contact, Social Capital and the Naturalization Process: Evidence from Six Immigrant Groups’, Social Science Research, 23 (1994), 407–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see Lim, P., Barry-Goodman, Colleen and Branham, David, ‘Discrimination that Travels: How Ethnicity Affects Party Identification for Southeast Asian Immigrants’, Social Science Quarterly, 87 (2006), 1158–1170CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Uhlaner, Carole J., Cain, Bruce E. and Roderick Kiewiet, D., ‘Political Participation of Ethnic Minorities in the 1980s’, Political Behavior, 11 (1989), 195–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 212; Pantoja, Ramirez and Segura, ‘Citizens by Choice, Voters by Necessity’, p. 735; Ramakrishnan and Espenshade, ‘Immigrant Incorporation and Political Participation in the United States’, p. 876. This perspective is consistent with previous research that employed citizenship as a proxy for commitment to host country (Black, ‘The Practice of Politics in Two Settings’; Black, Niemi and Powell, ‘Age and Resistance to Political Learning in a New Environment’).
46 Baum, Christopher F., An Introduction to Modern Econometrics Using Stata (College Station, Tex.: Stata Press, 2006)Google Scholar, chap. 8. Although it may seem at first glance that we have a case for a selection model, our theoretical model and data are not amenable to such statistical techniques. Specifically, a Heckman selection model operates on the assumption that only those who select themselves into a particular condition (e.g. citizenship) in the first stage have variation on the dependent variable in the second stage (e.g. political participation). The problem in the context of this study of political participation is that this assumption is applicable only to those forms of behaviour that are restricted to citizens (such as voting in national elections). This is not the case with non-electoral participation that is available to both citizens and non-citizens, and which is the focus of our analysis. Therefore, a Heckman selection model (or related approaches) is not applicable here.
47 Valid instruments have a significant partial correlation with citizenship, controlling for all the other determinants of political participation, while being uncorrelated with the error term in the model of political participation.
49 Weil, ‘Access to Citizenship’.
50 The United States Office of Personnel Management Investigations Service, Citizenship Laws of the World (The US Office of Personnel Management: Washington, DC, 2001).
51 This process, however, is not automatic – parents must register a child and request citizenship within a specific period of time (e.g., within five years in Belgium, or before the age of 22 in Switzerland).
52 Unfortunately, the ESS survey does not include a question measuring parents’ citizenship status – only their nativity status – and the foreign-born status of parents is of course only a proxy for parents’ citizenship. But given that many native-born parents might have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalization, this variable allows us to capture citizenship acquisition by descent at least to some extent.
55 For more information, see the variable description in the Appendix.
56 See Arceneaux, Kevin and Nickerson, David W., ‘Modeling Certainty with Clustered Data: A Comparison of Methods’, Political Analysis, 7 (2009), 177–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Note that, due to the inclusion of country fixed effects, identification in this model comes from within-country variation in immigrant background.
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58 The statistical significance of geographic distance is significantly reduced by the inclusion of a control for whether a foreigner comes from one of the EU-15 countries – a variable designed to distinguish between more and less desirable immigrants.
59 We hold other variables at their means and dichotomous variables at their medians; all country dummies, except Switzerland, are set to zero.
60 Morjé Howard, Marc, ‘Comparative Citizenship: An Agenda for Cross-National Research’, Perspectives on Politics, 4 (2006), 443–455Google Scholar, p. 450.
61 Freeman, Gary P., ‘Modes of Immigration Politics in Liberal Democratic States’, International Migration Review, 29 (1995), 881–913CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Joppke, Christian, ‘Why Liberal States Accept Unwanted Immigration’, World Politics, 50 (1998), 266–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar; de Haas, Hein, ‘Turning the Tide? Why Development Will Not Stop Migration’, Development and Change, 38 (2007), 819–841CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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