How to Please Voters Without Alienating Friends? Parties, Organised Interests and Advocacy Coalitions in Swiss Immigration Policy

(forthcoming) Comparative European Politics 12(5)


This article seeks to explain why and how political parties adopt more restrictive migration policy positions by using Paul Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). While a number of studies have focused almost exclusively on electoral factors to explain this anti-immigration turn, this article argues that policies and cooperation constraints with organised interests for purposes of coalition maintenance are also fundamental factors to understand change in party positions. Using the Swiss case as an empirical application, the article first shows how an increasingly anti-immigration policy discourse by parties has been triggered by a series of exogenous shocks (economic crisis, European integration and changes in partisan power relationships). Within advocacy coalitions, parties have sought to accommodate changing voter preferences with longstanding connections with organised interests. Centre-right parties have turned to an ever more restrictive stance on selective aspects of immigration policy (third country migration, asylum, access to citizenship) without challenging high levels of EU labour migration so central for employers. Social Democrats, for their part, have had to negotiate between the preferences of their middle–class voters keen on multiculturalism and those of trade unions whose base has become increasingly opposed to migration.


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