Michael A. Paarlberg - Research

Book project: Diaspora Democracy: Migrants, Parties, and Transnational Elections from Latin America to the United States

As more countries extend voting rights to citizens residing abroad, diaspora communities play a growing role in home country politics. 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. Transnational campaigning shows parties from around the world seek support from citizens residing abroad despite the fact that they usually do not, and sometimes cannot legally vote, and parties are sometime legally restricted from campaigning abroad. Yet parties’ diaspora outreach efforts are not uniform. This study finds that the intensity and type of engagement by which parties court migrants vary widely, and are largely shaped by a factor I call Diaspora Skew, the legacy of negative partisanship by diaspora communities against the party in power during the initial period of large-scale migration. Using original data on party travel documents, surveys of both migrants and home country voters, and interviews with politicians, party officials, and campaign strategists, I examine diaspora campaigning by parties in the top three migrant-sending countries to the U.S. relative to population: Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. My findings show that party investment in building overseas infrastructure, and engaging in grassroots mobilization, depends on this legacy of diaspora skew, as diasporas’ political profiles can become frozen in time and diverge from the home country electorate. I also find 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.

Excerpt (Comparative Politics July 2017): "Transnational Militancy: Diaspora Influence over Electoral Activity in Latin America"

Media coverage:

Working papers:

  • "Testing the Statistical Relationship Between Sanctuary Cities and MS-13 Violence" (with Loren Collingwood)
  • Why Do Emigrants Vote? Evidence from a Transnational Voter Mobilization Experiment (with Beth Iams Wellman)
  • Do Remittances Buy Votes? Diaspora Electoral Impact in the Dominican Republic (with Beth Iams Wellman)