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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multiculturalism and political parties : exploring the positions that parties take and their influence on policy Westlake, Daniel Jesse


Global migration and the rise of far-right parties have increased the importance of political debates surround multiculturalism. These two forces pull parties in competing directions. On one hand, migration increases the number of ethnic minority voters in countries, increasing the pressure on parties to support multiculturalism. As ethnic minorities become a larger portion of the electorate, parties have a greater incentive to respond to their interests. On the other hand, the emergence of far-right parties places pressure on parties to oppose multiculturalism as parties try to prevent anti-multicultural voters from defecting. This dissertation maps the development of multiculturalism over time, examines parties’ influence over policy adoption, and ethnic minorities’ and far-right parties’ influence over mainstream party positions. It includes three sets of findings. First, multiculturalism policies are subject to path dependence. Second, parties influence policy adoption but only when there is cross-party support for policy adoption, with mainstream right parties having a particularly important effect on adoption. Third, parties respond to the competing pressures of ethnic minorities and far-right parties. Increases in ethnic minority electoral strength increase mainstream parties’ support of multiculturalism, but only in single member district electoral systems, while the emergence of far-right parties decreases it. Both of these factors have a particularly powerful affect on mainstream right parties. The dissertation employs a mix of cross-country and single country analysis. Cross-country analysis establishes trends in policy development, parties’ impact on policy, and ethnic minorities’ and far-right parties’ influence over mainstream parties. It analyzes data from 21 industrialized countries using descriptive statistics, time-series cross-section regression, and Cox proportional hazard models in order to establish broadly generalizable trends in policy development and parties’ influence over policy. The dissertation then conducts detailed case analysis focusing on Canada and the Netherlands. Analysis of Canada demonstrates the impact of ethnic minority pressure and electoral systems on party positions. Analysis of the Netherlands demonstrates the impact that far-right parties are having on mainstream parties.

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