How do democracies incorporate immigrants’ interests into the political process during immigrant waves? Under what conditions can political actors represent these interests without undermining the preferences of their native constituencies? Recent literature has focused on anti-immigrant stances adopted by right-wing parties. However, based on the case of the Venezuelan community in Chile, we argue that right-wing parties may incorporate immigrants when a) they adopt foreign policy positions against nondemocratic leftist regimes of the immigrants’ homeland; b) this policy does not contradict the interests of their non-immigrant core constituency; and c) when immigrants have easy access to the right to vote. Chilean foreign policy towards Venezuela is a vital component of how Venezuelans in Chile make voting decisions. Using a survey experiment, we seek to assess whether anti-Chavista appeals made by Chilean right-wing parties effectively mobilize Venezuelan voters.
Building on the case of the Venezuelan community in Chile, we claim that right- wing parties may embrace and mobilize immigrants when: a) migrants have easy access to voting rights; and b) right-wing parties are able to mobilize migrants by adopting foreign policy stances against émigrés’ homeland regime. This foreign policy position profits from the negative identity that these regimes produce against left-wing parties among both migrants and national voters. This latter condition allows right-wing parties to avoid a trade-off between the incorporation of a specific group of migrants and the distributive and migration policy preferences of the party’s core native constituency. We implement a survey experiment to assess the impact of anti-Chavista policy appeals addressed to newcomers to Venezuela. Through a multi-arm design, we estimate the effect of anti-Chavista foreign policies in driving Venezuelans’ political participation in Chile. By comparing treatment arms, we are able to isolate the anti- Chavista component of other right-wing programmatic appeals. In other words, we estimate the causal effect of addressing negative identity while holding constant political ideology.
We combine qualitative and experimental evidence to describe parties’ strategies and to assess their efficacy regarding Venezuelan newcomers. First, we conduct a process-tracing analysis to describe whether Chilean right-wing parties carried out activities to build bonds with newcomers, given the political opportunity raised by the arrival of a large number of Venezuelan migrants.
Second, we implement a survey experiment to assess the impact of anti-Chavista policy appeals addressed to newcomers to Venezuela. Through a multi-arm design, we estimate the effect of anti-Chavista foreign policies in driving Venezuelans’ political participation in Chile.
- H1a. Descriptive hypothesis: Right-wing politicians in Chile consider the Venezuelan immigrants’ arrival an opportunity to expand their constituency.
- H1b. The arrival of immigrants is seen as a political opportunity for right-wing Chilean parties, regardless of immigrants’ country of origin.
- H1c. Immigration is not considered a political opportunity.
- H2.a Descriptive Hypothesis: Anti-Chavismo is consistent with the policy preferences of right-wing parties’ core constituencies.
- H2.b. Core voters of right-wing parties do not support aggressive foreign policies toward Venezuela.
- H3.a Descriptive Hypothesis: Right-wing politicians appeal to Venezuelans’ negative identity.
- H3.b. Right-wing parties appeal to all immigrants regardless of country of origin.
- H3.c. Right-wing parties do not appeal to immigrant citizens.
- H4.a Causal Hypothesis: Political opportunity identification by politicians drives the appeal to Venezuelans’ negative identity.
- H4.1b. Right-wing parties appeal to all immigrants, regardless of their country of origin.
- H4.1c. Right-wing parties do not appeal to immigrant citizens.
- H5.a. Descriptive Hypothesis: Venezuelans are politically engaged with right-wing parties.
- H5.b Venezuelans are not politically engaged with right-wing parties.
- H5.c Venezuelans are politically engaged with left-wing parties.
- H6.a Causal Hypothesis: Negative identity appeals elicit engagement with right-wing parties among Venezuelans.
- H6b. Ideology, rather than negative identity appeals, drives Venezuelans’ political commitment.