Does descriptive representation narrow the immigrant gap in turnout? A comparative study across 11 Western European democracies

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The political representation of citizens of immigrant origin in Western Europe has received much attention in recent years’ political science research. While existing research has advanced our understanding of the drivers of citizens of immigrant origins’ descriptive representation, a lot less is known about its consequences for citizens of immigrant origins’ electoral participation. This article intends to address this gap in the literature by conducting the first cross-country comparative study of whether migrant-specific descriptive representation can attenuate turnout gaps between citizens of immigrant origin and native-origin citizens in 11 Western European democracies. Linking data on migrant-specific descriptive representation in national parliaments with survey data provided by the European Social Survey, results suggest that turnout gaps tend to be lower in countries where descriptive representation is high. However, this relationship is contingent upon citizens of immigrant origin who consider themselves to be in an ethnic minority position, in which they frequently experience discrimination. By contrast, there is no evidence that descriptive representation matters for turnout levels of non-marginalised citizens of immigrant origin. The study sheds light on the widely overlooked link between descriptive representation and the immigrant gap in turnout levels and opens up several avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1277-1297
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number4
Early online date1 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Western Europe
  • descriptive representation
  • electoral turnout
  • immigration

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