Strangers in Hostile Lands: Exposure to Refugees and Right-Wing Support in Germany’s Eastern Regions

Max Schaub, Johanna Gereke, Delia Baldassarri

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Does local exposure to refugees increase right-wing support? This paper studies a case uniquely suited to address this question: the allocation of refugees to the rural hinterlands of eastern Germany during the European refugee crisis. Similar to non-urban regions elsewhere, the area has had minimal previous exposure to foreigners, but distinctively leans towards the political right. Our data comprise electoral outcomes, and individual-level survey and behavioral measures. A policy allocating refugees following strict administrative rules and a matching procedure allow for causal identification. Our measurements confirm the presence of widespread anti-immigrant sentiments. However, these are unaffected by the presence of refugees in respondents’ hometowns: on average, we record null effects for all outcomes, which we interpret as supporting a sociotropic perspective on immigration attitudes. Masked by these overall null findings, we observe convergence: local exposure to refugees appears to have pulled both right- and left-leaning individuals more towards the center.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)686-717
    Number of pages32
    JournalComparative Political Studies
    Issue number3-4
    StatePublished - Mar 2021


    • Germany
    • immigration
    • refugees
    • right-wing support

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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