Abstract

Recent expansions of diaspora rights have given overseas residents increasing political voice. This is particularly significant for environmental politics, because expatriates’ distinctive values, which are typically more cosmopolitan and multicultural than those of domestic voters, are likely to align with values of green organizations. Large-N analyses of an original, cross-national data set of election returns confirm this hypothesis: political parties from the ecological family receive larger shares of the emigrant vote than of the domestic vote, even when controlling for other factors that may win diaspora votes. Enhancing expatriates’ political power may accordingly increase the influence of a country’s environmentalist groups and parties.

Citizens increasingly move across international borders (United Nations 2016), a transnational movement that has increasingly captured attention in studies of global environmental politics (e.g., Boas et al. 2018). This attention has perhaps been most directed at climate refugees (Gray 2013), but competition for migrants’ political support has more broadly reshaped the partisan and policy landscape in many issues and countries (e.g., Barker and McMillan 2017; Dancygier and Saunders 2006; Just et al. 2014; Goldsmith and Holzner 2015). It would be surprising if environmental governance escaped this trend, especially with its inherent global consequences.

Moreover, migrants’ political importance is increasing as more countries give expatriate citizens the vote, and as overseas-voting initiatives have enfranchised transnational electorates with characteristic partisan and ideological preferences (Alvarez et al. 2008; Arrighi and Bauböck 2017).1 This emerging phenomenon may be particularly important for environmentalist groups’ electoral performance. Cross-border moves select for younger, more educated, and more internationally oriented citizens; experiences abroad further emphasize transnational identities and problems, including environmental issues. These characteristics align with those of the typical Green Party supporter, and larger shares of expatriate voters than domestic voters might accordingly support Green parties. In the long run, the many expatriates who eventually return home may further diffuse these characteristic environmentalist outlooks.

Our new data set of election results from twenty-four countries reveals that overseas voters do vote distinctively, supporting these hypotheses. In particular, Green parties obtain disproportionately high support among those who cast ballots from overseas: emigrant voters typically support Green parties at approximately twice the rate of domestic voters. These varying domestic versus diaspora fortunes of environmentalist parties not only have implications for campaign strategies and electoral outcomes when the franchise extends overseas. They also speak to how the increasing spread of multiculturalism and globalized identities may change the electoral landscape for environmentalist parties, suggesting an understudied mechanism for the spread of Green Party support across international borders.

Overseas Citizens and Support for Environmentalist Movements

Several factors suggest shared interests between multinational emigrants and environmental movements. Those whose politics is environment oriented tend to be young, educated, and urban, with an entrepreneurial outlook less attached to traditional cultural expression (Dolezal 2010). Those who migrate abroad, similarly, are most often young, eager for change, and entrepreneurial, with particularly high rates of business formation and ownership (Portes et al. 2002; Piracha and Vadean 2010; Hormiga and Bolívar-Cruz 2014; Gamlen 2015; Docquier et al. 2016; Mercier 2016). In personality, environmental supporters tend to be especially notable for their openness to new experiences (Greaves et al. 2017; Schoen and Schumann 2007) and their committed interest in political activity, particularly of the participatory, grassroots sort (Gauja and Jackson 2016). These characteristics typify emigrants too (Anelli and Peri 2017; Otto and Dalbert 2012; Remhof et al. 2013).

The subset of expatriates who choose to engage politically with their home-country government are even likelier than other emigrants are to be young, educated professionals (Jones-Correa 1998; Guarnizo et al. 2003; Smith and Bakker 2005), particularly those with ties to specific political organizations in their homelands (Careja and Emmenegger 2012). These patterns make sense, given the motivation required to overcome the costs of tracking homeland campaigns and voting from abroad (Bauböck 2006). But they tend to mean environmentalists’ similarity to the overseas electorate is even larger than the already elevated similarity with the typical expatriate. In other words, the demographic and personality similarities between diaspora voters and environmentalist supporters suggest that the two groups will overlap (Schumacher 2014; Bovens and Wille 2017, 54), so that one might expect a larger share of overseas voters than domestic voters to cast ballots along environmentalist lines.

Overseas citizens’ rapport with environmentalists goes beyond passive demographic resemblance, however. The experience of another society, inherent in international migration, likely shapes beliefs and preferences (Burean 2018; King and Ruiz-Gelices 2003; Williams et al. 2014), promoting values that align with those of most environmental movements. The broadening of transnational identities and the development of border-spanning social networks that most often come with residence abroad not only encourage attention to transnational problems, such as global climate change; they also can alter notions of citizenship that might predispose actors to environmental skepticism (Jacques 2006).

Furthermore, emigrants’ importance for environmentalist movements goes beyond their immediate voting impact. International migrants diffuse social movements such as grassroots ecological affinity, because many emigrants, after living, working, and studying abroad, return to their home countries, bringing their newly transnationalized norms and identities back with them (Bertoli and Marchetta 2015). Even in the relatively insular society of the United States, 15 percent of native-born (i.e., nonimmigrant) residents have lived abroad (Haubert and Fussell 2006); smaller and more regionally integrated countries such as those of the European Union tend to see even more experience of transnationalism (Smith and Favell 2006). Current trends observable in overseas citizens thus likely foreshadow future trends in the domestic vote, especially as globalization proceeds apace and more people live abroad for parts of their lives. This may have contributed to diffusing norms of environmental justice, which have arisen in suggestive parallel with diffusing norms of diaspora enfranchisement (Gellers and Jeffords 2018; Turcu and Urbatsch 2015).

These migrant–environmentalism links do not necessarily collapse onto a traditional, reductionist left–right spectrum. The personality characteristic most frequently seen to associate with emigrating, openness to experience, generally correlates with less conservatism (Schoen and Schumann 2007) and hence more support for left-leaning parties. Entrepreneurship, by contrast, more typically links to right-leaning attitudes (Jansen 2017). Indeed, previous studies have found that diasporas prefer the Left in some contexts, but the Right in others (Grace 2007; Docquier et al. 2016). Similarly, environmentalist groups also suffer distortion in analyses forcing them onto a simple left–right spectrum (Tromborg 2015). In fact, both emigrants and Green parties demonstrate willingness to break free of traditional left–right thinking to focus on complex, global challenges (Bomberg 2002; Koinova 2009; Careja and Emmenegger 2012; Röder and Lubbers 2015)—exactly the sorts of issues that environmental parties have ownership of (Spoon et al. 2014). Both groups’ departures from left–right orthodoxy, furthermore, have similar casts. Voluntary migrants’ demonstrated entrepreneurial willingness to seek out economic opportunities (Fairlie and Lofstrom 2014) even as they value inclusion and exposure to diversity (which encourages willingness to migrate) echoes the tendency for New Left parties like Green parties to have libertarian impulses (Dolezal 2010; Oesch and Rennwald 2010) and for Green policies to see support from left-libertarian parties (Kitschelt 1988).

Although Green groups’ prospects for attracting expatriates appear only fleetingly in the scholarly literature about environmentalism, practitioners—actual environmental-party campaigners—have taken note. Parties in general employ a thorough cost–benefit analysis when determining if campaigning abroad, or engaging groups of supporters in the diaspora, might prove beneficial or give them the winning edge over electoral competitors (Østergaard-Nielsen and Ciornei 2019a, 2019b). They are likelier to engage diasporas to a larger extent and strengthen ties with groups of supporters abroad when there is more promise of positive electoral dividends (Burgess 2018; Paarlberg 2019). Accordingly, some Green organizations especially concentrate mobilization efforts on the citizenry overseas as a strategy for political influence (Gamlen 2015). For example, in Belgium, both “Flemish and French-speaking Green parties also had significant support abroad, [so] these parties also developed stronger messages towards voters residing abroad” (Vintila et al. 2018, 23). This strategy may be especially promising as domestic media sources maintain narrow images of what Green groups are and do (Hughes 2016). Those abroad, having less exposure to domestic media sources, may be more reachable by some environmentalist campaigns (Christiansen 2004). Targeted mobilization efforts along these lines reinforce the attraction between overseas voters and Green parties.

These and all other arguments presented above inform our hypothesis: Green groups will receive support from a larger proportion of overseas citizens than of those at home.

Data and Empirical Methods

Exploring expatriate citizens’ potentially distinctive environmentalist attitudes requires information, sometimes hard to obtain, on what expatriates want, along with comparison data from domestic citizens. An ideal data set would include individual-level personal characteristics. However, few surveys include enough expatriates to allow meaningful comparison with domestic residents, especially not across multiple countries and years to allow for variation in institutional and political context. Hence, the most feasible approach for studying whether diasporas disproportionately support ecological movements considers actual voting returns, comparing overseas to home-country voters. This methodology evades ecological-inference problems on the variable of interest, as long as the election returns identify which votes come from overseas. The analysis here therefore focuses on countries that separately report overseas votes. This excludes countries that combine domestic and emigrant votes before tabulation, such as most Anglosphere and Scandinavian countries.

To test the present hypothesis, we compiled a new data set comprising the election results—that is, individual parties’ shares of the vote—for every legislative election through the end of 2018 for which the overseas voters’ partisan distribution of votes as well as consistent coding information that could identify members of the Green party family (Mair and Mudde 1998; Rashkova and Zankina 2017) were separately available. For that information about parties’ ideological positioning, we used the Manifesto Project database (Volkens et al. 2018). This produced a data set including 752 parties in 128 elections.2 All of these elections occurred in Europe; this geographical limitation is unfortunate given the dynamism of environmentalist parties in other regions (e.g., Fell and Peng 2016), but consistent party-position information is unavailable for other places with available diaspora-vote figures.

To provide a sense of the scope of the data set, Table 1 lists the countries involved, along with information about what fraction of voters—overall and Green Party—are overseas. (Table A.1 of the appendix contains a full list of elections in the data set. https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/suppl/10.1162/glep_a_00538) As the table shows, expatriates generally compose only a small fraction of the vote, but one that can be substantial for particular parties, especially smaller parties, such as many environmentalist ones. In the extreme cases, such as Moldova or Bulgaria, expatriates can represent several percentage points of a party’s vote, a potentially substantial opportunity for the affected parties. Even beyond the several cases where diaspora votes have swung national election results (e.g., Italy in 2006 and in 2013, Romania in 2009 and in 2014), then, overseas support may matter for particular parties. As the table shows, this is often (though not always) the case for ecological parties.

Table 1 
Proportion of Voters from Outside National Territory, Averaged Across All Elections with Available Partisan Distribution of Overseas Voters
CountryAll PartiesGreen Parties
Belgium (4) 0.28 0.62 
Bulgaria (8) 2.33 8.58 
Croatia (8) 2.68 0.35 
Czech Republic (5) 0.16 0.52 
Estonia (7) 0.74 0.48 
France (2) 0.95 1.28 
Georgia (6) 0.73 1.76 
Hungary (2) 3.24 0.39 
Italy (4) 2.85 1.05 
Latvia (7) 1.69 0.88 
Lithuania (6) 0.76 1.77 
Macedonia (3) 0.69 0.00 
Moldova (7) 1.68 3.97 
Netherlands (3) 0.44 0.97 
Poland (6) 0.67 0.69 
Portugal (15) 0.92 0.00 
Romania (7) 0.62 0.54 
Russia (2) 0.44 0.00 
Serbia (5) 0.22 0.13 
Slovakia (1) 0.04 0.04 
Slovenia (3) 1.05 1.92 
Spain (10) 0.65 1.33 
Turkey (3) 2.35 0.00 
Ukraine (5) 0.14 0.11 
CountryAll PartiesGreen Parties
Belgium (4) 0.28 0.62 
Bulgaria (8) 2.33 8.58 
Croatia (8) 2.68 0.35 
Czech Republic (5) 0.16 0.52 
Estonia (7) 0.74 0.48 
France (2) 0.95 1.28 
Georgia (6) 0.73 1.76 
Hungary (2) 3.24 0.39 
Italy (4) 2.85 1.05 
Latvia (7) 1.69 0.88 
Lithuania (6) 0.76 1.77 
Macedonia (3) 0.69 0.00 
Moldova (7) 1.68 3.97 
Netherlands (3) 0.44 0.97 
Poland (6) 0.67 0.69 
Portugal (15) 0.92 0.00 
Romania (7) 0.62 0.54 
Russia (2) 0.44 0.00 
Serbia (5) 0.22 0.13 
Slovakia (1) 0.04 0.04 
Slovenia (3) 1.05 1.92 
Spain (10) 0.65 1.33 
Turkey (3) 2.35 0.00 
Ukraine (5) 0.14 0.11 

Note: Number of elections with available data is given in parentheses.

Classifying party platforms is a notoriously contested exercise, so analyses below also present an alternative measure of party positions from the ParlGov data set (Döring and Manow 2016). This, as a robustness check, both covers a different set of countries and classifies parties into a somewhat different set of families: notably, ParlGov does not categorize “nationalist” or “ethnic minority” parties, although it does include a “right-wing” category (with no direct analogue in Manifesto Project data) that somewhat overlaps with nationalist groupings. Both classifications, crucially, include “ecological” parties; belonging to this category serves as the measure of the independent variable of interest. Besides differences in which country-years are covered, the two codings do diverge as to which parties are “ecologist” when evaluating Italy’s populist Movimento 5 Stelle (which counts as ecologist only in ParlGov’s coding) and Serbia’s Slovak-minority Zelená Strana (which counts only in the Manifesto Project coding). The codes do generally conform with intuitions about which parties are environmentalist, although some parties that are occasionally deemed to be Green, such as the Dutch Partij voor de Dieren (Party of the Animals), are counted here as being special-issue parties instead of ecological ones (Morini 2018).3

Even among elections that report overseas voters separately, the separation between domestic and diaspora is not always consistent.4 Voters who live abroad but travel home for elections generally do not appear in overseas-voters statistics; most election authorities treat such cases as domestic votes and may not even know that the voter habitually resides elsewhere.5 Additionally, some countries only distinguish overseas voters for some election technologies. Countries that allow both postal and internet voting, for example, may explicitly report postal votes from overseas but combine domestic and international electronic votes: Estonia and the Netherlands do this. In such cases, reported results include only votes clearly from overseas.

The key dependent variable, for each party with Manifesto Project information at each election of the (lower house of the) legislature, is
log2party share of overseas votelog2party share of domestic vote.
6

This formulation means that a party that gets twice as large of a share of the international vote as it does among the domestic electorate as a whole will get a score of 1, while a party whose overseas vote share is four times its domestic-vote share will get a score of 2. Conversely, a party whose share of the diaspora vote is half that of its domestic-vote share will get a score of −1, and one whose share of the diaspora vote is one-fourth that of its domestic-vote share will get a score of −2. A party with exactly the same share of domestic and overseas votes gets a score of 0. This measure excludes cases that received no international votes, particularly common in countries (such as Croatia, France, and Italy) where diasporas have their own reserved seats in the legislature (Collyer 2014).7 Relative diaspora support varies substantially across observations, with values ranging as high as 3.6 (for Georgia’s Progress Bloc, a small liberal party, in 1995) and as low as −5.3 (for Estonia’s Eestimaa Ühendatud Rahvapartei, a party targeting the ethnic Russian minority, in 1999).

Ecological parties also vary considerably in their diaspora support. The diaspora has been a mainstay of support for the Czech Republic’s Strana zelených (Green Party), which in recent elections has outperformances among the overseas vote measured between 2.1 and 2.2 using the coding here. That is, overseas voters have had 22.1 (= 4.3) to 22.2 (= 4.6) times as high a probability of voting for the party as domestic voters do. Conversely, in some cases, Green parties have obtained higher vote shares among domestic rather than international voters; in the 2014 Belgian election, the Groen (Green) Party took 5.3 percent of the vote within Belgian territory but only 4.1 percent of the overseas vote, coded by the formula above as log2(4.1/5.3), or −0.40.8 On average, though, the ecological parties receive far higher vote shares among overseas voters; the simple average score among parties coded as “green” by at least one of the two party-family classification schemes examined here is 0.90, equivalent to Green parties receiving almost double their domestic-vote share among overseas voters.

While this simple relationship is indicative, it does not account for factors other than affinity for Green party platforms and outlooks that might lead to a correlation, nor does it indicate precisely what it is about Green parties that might appeal to voters overseas. Although, as noted above, there are not clear theoretical expectations regarding diasporas’ general left–right ideology, these can correlate with party family: environmentalist parties, in particular, tend to fall on the left part of the spectrum in most codings, so apparent support for ecological parties might instead reflect a broader left-wing orientation of diasporas. Both the Manifesto Project and ParlGov code parties’ placement on the left–right scale, which can assess this possibility.

General ideology is not the only way in which Green parties stand out ideologically: they more generally reflect postmaterialist values (Grant and Tilley 2019). Naturally, they tend to have particular environmentalist planks in their platforms. The Manifesto Project codes what fraction of policy-relevant sentences in a party platform include advocacy for environmental protection (variable name: per501). This variable’s inclusion checks the extent to which parties that are not primarily Green but that generally favor environmentally protective policies, or parties that are opportunistically trying to capture environmentally oriented voters with rhetorical claims of support, win overseas’ citizens votes. This conversely provides circumstantial evidence as to whether it is, centrally, the environmental planks of ecological parties’ platforms that win any observed diaspora support. Green parties also often have distinctively pacifistic foreign-policy platforms (Brunstetter and Brunstetter 2011), which may resonate with the inherently transnational nature of overseas voters’ lives and their consequently possibly distinctive attitudes regarding foreign policy (Whitten and Williams 2011). The Manifesto Project, though not ParlGov, has a relevant measure, coding parties’ attitudes regarding international peace (Manifesto variable intpeace, the single Manifesto “programmatic dimension” focusing on foreign affairs), which allows a check as to whether foreign-policy, not environmental-policy, positions are the root of any diaspora affinity for Green parties. As alternative measures of whether this foreign-policy measure really captures Europe-specific policies or openness to cross-national engagement, other specifications measure the difference between positive (Manifesto variable per108) and negative (per110) references to pan-European institutions and to the difference between positive (per607) and negative (per608) references to multiculturalism.

Party size might also drive diaspora voters’ partisan preferences. Minor parties—and environmental parties are a classic example of a niche party (Abou-Chadi 2016; Zons 2016)—may be more likely to lack the pecuniary resources and broad social networks needed to reach potential voters overseas with campaign communications. Such parties could see distinctive performance among diaspora voters, although the likeliest implication is that Green parties’ relatively small size would lead them to underperform, not outperform, among overseas voters. This possibility would conform with previous empirical findings that large parties traditionally receive greater shares of the diaspora than of the domestic vote (Lisi 2009; Sampugnaro 2017). To account for these possible effects of party size, models below control for the percentage of the domestic vote that each party received in the given election.

Results

Table 2 presents ordinary least squares models of parties’ performance with standard errors clustered by election to account for correlation among the performance of different parties competing in the same election. To facilitate interpreting the table, the results for the variable of interest, a party’s being from the ecological/Green family, are presented graphically in Figure 1, showing the estimated effect and 95-percent confidence interval for each model. In the figure, estimates are transformed from the logarithmic form appropriate for model estimates to easier-to-interpret form such that a value of 2 implies that the party captures twice as large a percentage of the overseas vote as of the domestic vote, 3 implies that the party captures three times as large a percentage of the overseas vote, and so on. Confidence intervals that do not overlap the dotted vertical line at 1, then, suggest that the Green party family performs significantly better (if to the right of the line) or worse (if to the left) among the diaspora.

Table 2 
Political Parties’ Relative Outperformance Among Diaspora Voters in Legislative General Elections
 Manifesto Project Data SetParlGov Data Set
IIIIIIIVVVI
Ecologist party 1.152* (0.280) 1.071* (0.291) 1.041* (0.286) 1.087* (0.291) 0.978* (0.290) 1.355* (0.292) 
Party’s left–right position   0.001 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003)   0.148* (0.025) 
Party’s environmentalism   0.002 (0.008) 0.005 (0.008) 0.003 (0.008)     
Party’s foreign-policy orientation   −0.126* (0.029)         
Party’s EU attitude     0.064* (0.016)         
Party’s multiculturalism       0.016 (0.020)     
Party’s domestic-vote share 0.007* (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 0.008* (0.003) 0.007* (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 
Constant −0.582* (0.078) −0.464* (0.100) −0.667* (0.093) −0.608* (0.093) −0.529* (0.083) −1.311* (0.154) 
N 752 743 743 743 622 608 
 Manifesto Project Data SetParlGov Data Set
IIIIIIIVVVI
Ecologist party 1.152* (0.280) 1.071* (0.291) 1.041* (0.286) 1.087* (0.291) 0.978* (0.290) 1.355* (0.292) 
Party’s left–right position   0.001 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003)   0.148* (0.025) 
Party’s environmentalism   0.002 (0.008) 0.005 (0.008) 0.003 (0.008)     
Party’s foreign-policy orientation   −0.126* (0.029)         
Party’s EU attitude     0.064* (0.016)         
Party’s multiculturalism       0.016 (0.020)     
Party’s domestic-vote share 0.007* (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 0.008* (0.003) 0.007* (0.003) 0.006 (0.003) 
Constant −0.582* (0.078) −0.464* (0.100) −0.667* (0.093) −0.608* (0.093) −0.529* (0.083) −1.311* (0.154) 
N 752 743 743 743 622 608 

Note: Standard errors, clustered by election, in parentheses.

*

p < 0.05 (two-tailed).

Figure 1 

Estimated Green Party Vote Share Among Overseas Voters, as Predicted by the Columns of Table 2 

Figure 1 

Estimated Green Party Vote Share Among Overseas Voters, as Predicted by the Columns of Table 2 

In either party-family coding, diaspora voters disproportionately support Green/ecologist parties. These effects are all statistically significant and substantively large;9 Green parties see predicted vote shares that are, depending on which model is used, 97 to 156 percent larger among overseas voters than among the electorate as a whole. That is, an ecological party that wins 10 percent of the domestic vote would be expected to garner 19.7 to 25.6 percent of the votes from abroad.

In the broader scale- rather than family-based measures of ideology, left–right position does not show robust statistical significance; when, in the ParlGov coding, it does correlate with overseas vote returns, the result implies that diasporas generally prefer parties of the political right—making their affinity for environmentalist parties, typically leftist, all the more striking. Overseas voters also seem to diverge consistently from domestic residents in foreign-policy preferences, with parties scoring lower on the Manifesto Project’s international peace scale generally garnering relatively high vote shares among diasporas. Parties that more thoroughly embrace the European Union similarly do well among overseas voters. These patterns, too, are notable, since these policy positions echo those of the average ecological parties, which score (statistically significantly) higher on the international peace and pro-European variables than do most others.

Party size and environmentalist content of platform prove to have only modest, statistically fragile relationships with relative performance among diaspora voters. The point estimate of the effect is always that larger and more environmentally protective parties tend to do relatively better among the overseas electorate (and in some specifications, the relationship does reach the two-tailed p < 0.05 level for party size). The estimate regarding the effects of having a more environmentalist platform may be somewhat affected by the variable being highly skewed: while the average platform devotes around one-thirtieth of its sentences to environmental protection, a few parties’ manifestos were over one-half composed of environmentalist content. However, even with transformations to reduce the variable’s skew, such manifesto content’s relationship with outperformance among overseas votes remains statistically insignificant.

These results suggest that diaspora voters, who emigrate yet still remain politically engaged with their home countries, tend to exhibit greater predispositions than do their domestic compatriots to vote for Green parties. This does not seem simply to reflect the Green parties’ environmental bent—at least not as reflected in manifesto texts—but some broader synchrony of identity or perspective. To further explore the robustness and roots of these patterns, the next section turns to some alternative factors that may contribute to overseas voters’ attitudes.

Nonideological Sources of Green Party Support Among Diasporas

Overseas voters may respond to parties’ history and organization as well as their ideological positions. Diaspora decisions, notably, may reflect past interactions with parties: whether those parties provided benefits to, or imposed costs upon, emigrant citizens. In other words, overseas voters’ choices may reflect not just contemporary ideological compatibility but also institutional or historical factors that make parties more or less attractive to overseas voters.

One such factor is the experience of communism. The sample of countries here includes cases from both sides of the former Iron Curtain, but these very different backgrounds produced divergent institutional and attitudinal landscapes that might be expected to shape support for Green parties in particular (Rootes 2000; Agarin and Grīviņš 2016). The particular forces that fueled emigration from communist and postcommunist societies may be especially likely to produce differences in receptivity to environmentalist parties among overseas populations. Even though many members of the diaspora did not depart until the opening of borders after the fall of communism, much postdemocratization emigration reflected pent-up demand to escape the legacies of the communist system (Pfaff and Kim 2003). Postcommunist countries’ emigrants have often been concomitantly suspicious of the main postcommunist parties, especially those led by figures associated with the ancien régime. Since traditional communist policies were antithetical to typical Green precepts of environmentalism and grassroots activism (Olsen 1998), ecological movements might be particularly natural choices for postcommunist overseas voters.

This logic raises the possibility that Table 2’s results might be driven largely by patterns within the erstwhile communist world that are being overgeneralized to the rest of Europe. To test whether this is the case, one set of models interacts the key ecological-party indicator value with a country’s having been part of the Soviet bloc. The coefficient on the main ecological-party variable in such models thus estimates the overperformance of Green parties among expatriate voters in countries that were not communist, while the coefficient on the interaction estimates the difference in Green Party overseas voter overperformance between former communist and other states.

Additionally, the currently incumbent party or parties of government might see anomalous electoral results among emigrants. Incumbent governments often have authority to target domestic spending or influence state media whose dominance is more contested abroad; in fact, many of the other electoral advantages typically afforded incumbent parties domestically are missing abroad (Samuels 2001). Domestic audiences might then favor incumbent parties at a greater rate than diaspora audiences do, even holding ideology constant. Alternatively, the resources that come with control of government may make it easier for parties in the incumbent government to convey messages to overseas voters, a relatively expensive proposition for most other parties. Likewise, information asymmetries between voters abroad and voters at home may translate into a stronger incentive for domestic voters than for expatriates to punish policy failings (Paarlberg 2017); some smaller-scale studies have indeed suggested that diaspora voters favor incumbents more than domestic voters do (Fidrmuc and Doyle 2005). To the extent Green parties are frequently and increasingly parts of national governing coalitions (van Haute 2016), this creates effects that spuriously appear to support a linkage between overseas voters and support for Green parties. A dummy variable indicating whether a party is currently a member of the governing coalition tests whether either of these contradictory possibilities drives observed effects.

Past incumbents may also have a special position among overseas voters because those incumbents were the ones who extended voting rights abroad. Traditionally, parties have expected that they would reap outsized electoral rewards by extending the franchise, as those who were newly granted suffrage would remember and repay them with their votes (Bashevkin 1983). Some studies have observed such reciprocity among diasporas in particular, despite the distance that might put overseas citizens out of reach of some mobilization efforts. Particular incumbent parties that played a decisive role in enfranchising diasporas have received strong, persistent support among expatriates even as their domestic electoral appeal waned (Burean 2011; Bozoki 2013). While political parties do not always in practice receive electoral rewards from groups to which they extended the vote, lingering gratitude could potentially motivate diaspora support of parties who are otherwise ideologically uncongenial (Berlinski and Dewan 2011). Thus, accounting for which parties were in power when citizens abroad gained voting rights may alter Table 2’s results. This is especially important because diasporas’ seeming sympathy with Green ideals might lead related parties to strategically extend the franchise, in the hope of recouping future votes.

These three theoretical mechanisms—being in power at the time of expatriation, at the time of the election, and at the time of the suffrage extension—all require coding of which parties contesting an election were in power at some particular juncture. This task is relatively straightforward in countries with stable party systems. However, in other institutional contexts, determining which party, if any, continues the legacy of a previous incumbent is more complex. A splinter faction may or may not be associated in the public mind with the previous government; even the renaming of a coherent party may affect the sense of continuity. These problems were especially fraught when countries gave voters abroad the right to vote as part of the process of general transition from authoritarian government to democracy. In such times of democratization, nonpartisan or all-party coalitions are relatively common, making it difficult to discern which parties deserve gratitude for their franchise extension. Table 3, in incorporating these variables into the baseline models of Table 2’s columns I and III, excludes cases where the party alignment of government is ambiguous in this way. Figure 2 presents the results more transparently, analogously to Figure 1’s presentation of Table 2, with the interaction-based models showing separate predictions for countries that were (“East”) and were not (“West”) formerly communist.

Table 3 
Political Parties’ Relative Outperformance Among Diaspora Voters in Legislative General Elections
 Manifesto Project Data SetParlGov Data Set
IIIIIIIVVVI
Ecologist party 1.427* (0.114) 1.139* (0.276) 1.193* (0.278) 1.145* (0.233) 0.970* (0.282) 1.029* (0.283) 
Party’s domestic-vote share 0.008* (0.003) 0.004 (0.003) 0.004 (0.003) 0.007* (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 
Former Soviet bloc country −0.013 (0.078)     0.076 (0.091)     
Ecologist Party × Former Soviet bloc −0.709 (0.681)     −0.461 (0.777)     
Party in incumbent government   0.361* (0.125)     0.350* (0.131)   
Party was suffrage grantor     0.462* (0.139)     0.490* (0.153) 
Constant −0.574* (0.067) −0.631* (0.082) −0.606* (0.079) −0.565* (0.073) −0.499* (0.082) −0.551* (0.083) 
N 752 721 727 622 608 622 
 Manifesto Project Data SetParlGov Data Set
IIIIIIIVVVI
Ecologist party 1.427* (0.114) 1.139* (0.276) 1.193* (0.278) 1.145* (0.233) 0.970* (0.282) 1.029* (0.283) 
Party’s domestic-vote share 0.008* (0.003) 0.004 (0.003) 0.004 (0.003) 0.007* (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 0.003 (0.003) 
Former Soviet bloc country −0.013 (0.078)     0.076 (0.091)     
Ecologist Party × Former Soviet bloc −0.709 (0.681)     −0.461 (0.777)     
Party in incumbent government   0.361* (0.125)     0.350* (0.131)   
Party was suffrage grantor     0.462* (0.139)     0.490* (0.153) 
Constant −0.574* (0.067) −0.631* (0.082) −0.606* (0.079) −0.565* (0.073) −0.499* (0.082) −0.551* (0.083) 
N 752 721 727 622 608 622 

Note: Standard errors, clustered by election, in parentheses.

*

p < 0.05 (two-tailed).

Figure 2 

Estimated Green Party Vote Share Among Overseas Voters, as Predicted by the Columns of Table 3 

Figure 2 

Estimated Green Party Vote Share Among Overseas Voters, as Predicted by the Columns of Table 3 

Although several of the additional variables at least sometimes come up as statistically significant—diasporas tend to be more supportive of incumbent parties and those that previously granted suffrage to those abroad—the additions do not disturb the central finding: a substantially larger share of overseas voters than of domestic voters cast ballots for the Green parties. Nor is this driven exclusively by either postcommunist or non-postcommunist countries: the effect of being an ecological party, though with a slightly smaller point estimate in the former Soviet bloc, is not statistically distinguishable between the two regions using either the Manifesto or the ParlGov coding. This is in part because the former Soviet bloc’s relatively smaller number of cases produces relatively imprecise estimates for that group, and in part because what is by far the largest outlier in the sample, Hungary, is in the postcommunist category. Still, as in Table 2, the models generally estimate overseas voters to be around twice as likely to vote Green as domestic voters are. Table 3’s smaller sample sizes and greater potential for multicollinearity do result in somewhat wider confidence intervals, but the result of the central hypothesis test persists statistically significant throughout Table 3’s models.

Conclusions

The analysis above uses an original database to examine electoral support for Green or ecological parties among diasporas. These parties tend to attract a larger share of overseas votes than of domestic votes: environmentalist parties tend to overperform among voters abroad and hence see their overall vote shares increase upon the enfranchisement of expatriate citizens. These patterns fit with broader stylized facts about diasporas and environmentalist parties’ bases of support and of the effects of international exposure. Green parties’ appeals to a young, educated electorate concerned with cross-national problems are likely to connect with the typical diaspora voter. These findings may foretell an even brighter future for Green movements’ performance. The frequent role of emigrants as early adopters of globalization, pioneering changes that eventually reach others in an increasingly interconnected world, may provide hints at how increasing globalization may change and shape future electoral behavior at home (Crow and Perez-Armendariz 2018; Levitt and Jaworsky 2007).

Future studies should examine these phenomena outside the important but possibly exceptional context of formal political parties. Diasporas’ membership in other Green organizations, or their expression of support for environmentalist precepts, may provide further detail about how absorbing transnational ideas and identity translates into environmental politics. Do nongovernmental organizations focusing on certain issues, such as global climate change, or others that are explicitly cross-border in scope see greater increases in support among expatriates than do those focused on more localized issues? Similarly, does the structure of the organization matter, such that having chapters with an active presence in multiple countries is more likely to get buy-in from current or former international migrants?

Future research might also more precisely pinpoint the specific causal mechanisms that lead to diasporas’ support for ecological movements. Studies could, for example, examine such issues as how expatriates in different parts of the world behave: do expatriates living in, say, the United States, with its relatively weak environmental regulations compared to those in Europe, show smaller increases in their affinity for environmentalist policy and action because of socialization into local norms? Or, conversely, would living in a locale with weaker environmental protections spur emigrants to reflect on and react against weak environmental laws? These sorts of effects provide a unique perspective on how selection and context influence environmentalist politics. This is especially of interest for explaining something like the diffusion of Green organization support across national borders, since expatriates’ ability to observe the success of host-country ecological social movements may contribute to their willingness to join and advocate for such groups. To continue with the specific example of formal political parties considered in the analysis here, expatriates in a country lacking a nationally competitive Green Party might be less apt to prefer home-country environmentalist parties or movements than would expatriates in Germany or Finland, where Green parties have been electorally successful enough to join multiple governments (van Haute 2016). More generally, case studies of specific environmental movements and interviews with overseas citizens might provide richer detail about the process that produces the outcomes observed here, such as the role of transnational environmental group outreach as a mobilizer of emigrants. Similarly, but moving beyond election results, does the constellation of ecological policies and outcomes in diasporas’ countries of residence influence their attitudes toward environmentalism and environmental politics? Migrants provide a powerful potential testing ground for many theories of politics, but their particular connection with ecologically oriented parties makes them especially intriguing in the environmentalist domain.

Notes

1. 

Throughout, we use “overseas,” “diaspora,” “emigrant,” and “expatriate” interchangeably to describe citizens who, during an election, are outside the territory of a country in which they have voting rights. Similarly, “Green,” “ecological,” and “environmentalist” organizations are used synonymously here unless otherwise noted.

2. 

The Manifesto Project has not released data for a few recent elections. In these cases, we reuse the codings from the latest election for which Manifesto data are available, leaving uncoded those parties not included in earlier Manifesto codings. As parties rarely change families, this element of the measure is likely reliable, though the issue-position indices are more volatile from one election to the next.

3. 

Counting the Partij voor de Dieren as an ecological party does not alter the conclusions of the analyses below; see the appendix, Tables A.2 and A.3 https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/suppl/10.1162/glep_a_00538, for complete results.

4. 

Definitions of who counts as “overseas” can also vary. Some countries (e.g., Slovakia) only count those voters who lack any domestic voter registration and thus have particularly low shares of “overseas” voters (see Table 1), whereas most other countries include voters who have domestic registration but happen to reside abroad during the election.

5. 

Because figures for overseas residents who return home to vote are usually unavailable, we exclude analogous data for countries that do separately report voters who came back for the election. In such cases, the returning voters are generally a small fraction of the total overseas vote; to the extent that they are included, they are likely to impose a conservative bias on estimated effects by reducing the difference between putatively domestic and overseas voters.

6. 

For countries with both proportional and majoritarian lists, the measure looks at the proportional data, since they are most directly tied to the party-related concept of interest.

7. 

No such excluded parties are coded by either data set as belonging to the ecological-party family. This may relate to the discussion above as to why ecological parties might be optimistic about their level of support among overseas voters.

8. 

Belgium’s other ecological party, Ecolo, did outperform among overseas voters. If, as in the ParlGov coding, Italy’s Movimento 5 Stelle is deemed an ecological party, it would mark the extreme of diaspora underperformance among all ecological parties; in 2013, it received 25.5 percent of the domestic vote but only 9.6 percent of the overseas vote, for a score of log2(9.6/25.5) = −1.41.

9. 

These effects are robust to including country fixed effects in the models or when using multilevel models incorporating country- and election-level effects; see the appendix, Tables A.4–A.7 https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/suppl/10.1162/glep_a_00538, for full results.

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Author notes

*

We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and GEP editors for their feedback and support. We are listed in alphabetical order.

Supplementary data