Universal suffrage is a core element of democracy. However, in many democratic countries, a large part of the inhabitants are foreigners without suffrage. We analyze the conditions under which domestic citizens are willing to extend suffrage to non-citizen residents. This paper explores a new panel dataset (1992–2016) of Swiss referenda on the enfranchisement of non-citizens. We concentrate on the size and composition of the foreign population and the institutional context as determinants of non-citizens’ enfranchisement. Our estimates show that a higher share of foreigners corresponds to a lower willingness of natives to enfranchise non-citizens. This effect seems to be driven by the cost of enfranchising non-citizens, which increases in the cultural distance between the foreign and native population and the strength of direct democracy.
Anna Maria Koukal, Patricia Schafer and Reiner Eichenberger, Enfranchising non-citizens: What drives natives’ willingness to share power?, Journal of Comparative Economics, 2021.