We study how individual political preferences changed in response to the influx of over 3.5 million Syrian refugees to Turkey during 2012–2016. Using a difference-in-differences research design, we compare the political outcomes in geographic areas with high versus low intensities of refugee presence before and after the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. To address the endogeneity of refugees’ location choices, we adopt an instrumental variables approach that relies on (1) historical dispersion of Arabic speakers in Turkish provinces and (2) driving distances between Turkish and Syrian residential areas to predict the flows of refugees across Turkish provinces during the study period. We find strong polarization in attitudes towards refugees between the supporters and opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, regression analyses of monthly survey data suggest that the massive inflow of refugees induced only a modest net drop in support for the AKP. Refugee inflows did not have a significant impact on election outcomes during the study period.
Citation: Altındağ, O., Kaushal, N. Do refugees impact voting behavior in the host country? Evidence from Syrian refugee inflows to Turkey. Public Choice 186, 149–178 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-019-00768-3