Voting about immigration policy: What does the Swiss experience tell us?
This paper draws on Swiss direct democracy to review the Swiss experience with immigration, which has been shaped strongly by regular voting on immigration policies. Relying on two unique post-vote data-sets on how Swiss citizens voted on initiatives directed at containing the proportion of foreigners in the population, we improve on past empirical evidence by by-passing the problem of "hypothetical bias" present in the analysis of conventional survey data. Controlling for the participation bias due to non-mandatory voting, we find evidence that the hypothetical bias hampering pre-vote surveys may be large but that turnout does not have a decisive influence on the outcome of a vote. Confirming political-economy predictions, education matters in the shaping of immigration preferences but non-economic arguments also play an important role.
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