Local politicians can play an important role in promoting citizenship, but their helpfulness varies considerably across local councils. Do politicians discriminate against immigrants seeking to naturalize in ways that public opinion and national citizenship debates would suggest? In two correspondence studies fielded in Germany, we find no evidence that features that are salient in national debates and public opinion predict responsiveness. Specifically, signals of national identification and attachment play no role. Instead, we document a reversed national penalty: politicians are 50% more likely to assist a large low-status group (Turks) than a small high status-group (Canadians). When probing mechanisms via elite interviews, we find that the desire to promote integration and electoral participation can counteract biases that typically generate discrimination. Among politicians, factors associated with group size can therefore help reverse penalties against low-status groups. Research on citizenship and discrimination must consider these disconnects between public perceptions, national debates, and local politics.
Jeyhun Alizade, Rafaela Dancygier and Ruth K. Ditlmann, National Penalties Reversed: The Local Politics of Citizenship and Politician Responsiveness to Immigrants, Journal of Politics, 2021.