Book project: Campaigning Abroad: Diaspora Militancy and Transnational Elections

Within the last 30 years, voting rights for citizens residing abroad have been adopted by the majority of countries in the world, yet voting rates among diaspora communities are almost universally low. Nevertheless, candidates running for office in countries as varied as Guatemala, Turkey, Liberia, and Taiwan regularly travel to campaign in migrant-receiving countries such as the United States. What is fascinating and understudied is the fact that politicians seek the support of citizens residing abroad even when those citizens do not, or cannot, vote. I have collected and thoroughly analyzed original data on party travel documents, surveys of both migrants and home country voters, and interviews with politicians, party officials, and campaign strategists in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. I present my theory of Transnational Militancy, which explains for the first time why and how parties in migrant-sending countries seek to build and capitalize on migrant communities’ transnational ties for electoral advantage. This depends on the existing infrastructure parties have built overseas, and the partisan skew of the diaspora, largely formed in the period of migration. My findings show that politicians seek the support of migrants not primarily for their votes, but for the influence they believe migrants have over family members in their home countries. As one Salvadoran party activist states, “If we get the support of one Salvadoran in the U.S., that gives us five votes in El Salvador.” My statistical models on political behavior of migrants’ relatives, however, finds this perception to be exaggerated. 

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