Journal Article

Did exposure to asylum seeking migration affect the electoral outcome of the 'Alternative fur Deutschland' in Berlin? Evidence from the 2019 European elections

Pettrachin, A., Gabrielli, L., Kim, J., Ludwig-Dehm, S., Pötzschke, S.
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 49:2, 576–600 (2023)
Open Access


This article analyses the impact of exposure to asylum-seeking migration during the European ‘refugee crisis’ on votes for the far-right Alternative für Deutschland at the 2019 European elections in Berlin. While other scholars investigated the relationship between locals’ exposure to asylum-seekers and far-right voting, we analyse this relationship at a very small scale (electoral district level), adopting an innovative methodological approach, based on geo-localization techniques and high-resolution spatial statistics. Furthermore, we assess the impact on this relationship of some previously neglected variables. Through spatial regression models, we show that exposure to asylum-seeking migration is negatively correlated with AfD vote shares, which provides support for so-called ‘contact theory’ and that the relationship is stronger in better-off districts. Remarkably, the relationship is weaker in districts containing bigger reception centres, which suggests that the effects of asylum-seeking migration depend on the perceived contact intensity (and, therefore, a moderating effect of reception centre size). Finally, the effects of districts’ socio-economic deprivation on the relationship between exposure to asylum-seeking migration and AfD vote shares is different in districts located in former East and West Berlin, which suggests an effect of socio-cultural history on the relationship between exposure to migration and far-right voting.

Keywords: Berlin, Berlin, East, Berlin, West, Germany, international migration, political science, refugees, spatial analysis
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.