Reports 2013/25

Immigrants and the 2011 municipal and county council elections

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Over the last elections there has been a steady increase in the number of persons with immigrant background who are entitled to vote. From 2007 to 2011 the number has increased with more than 100 000 persons. In total around 390 000 persons with immigrant background were entitled to vote in the local elections in 2011. Around half of these had their background from Asia, Africa, Latin-America and Europe outside of the EU/EEA. For practical reasons this group of countries is abbreviated to Africa, Asia etc. for later use in this report. Of single country backgrounds immigrants from Pakistan comprised the largest group, followed by Vietnam, Iraq and Iran. Migrants with background from Asia, Africa etc. who are entitled to vote are in general younger than the part of the population without immigrant background. More than half are younger than 40 years old. They live to a larger degree in the urban parts of the country in the big cities. Most live in Oslo where 36 per cent of all immigrants with background from Asia, Africa reside.

Consistent low electoral turnout – but with an increase for Somali citizens

The electoral turnout among immigrants from Asia, Africa etc. is low, and although it varies markedly among the different groups, for all country backgrounds it is lower than the turnout in the population without immigrant background. In general the electoral turnout increases with years of residence, but not for all groups, and the increase is less notable compared to earlier elections. Norwegian citizens with immigrant background have a higher electoral turnout compared to foreign citizens. Among Norwegian citizens with background from Asia, Africa etc. around 40 percept of those eligible to vote participated, this was 3 percentage points higher turnout compared to the election in 2007. Among foreign citizens only 33 per cent participated, we find the highest turnout in this group among Somali citizens where 51 per cent participated. This was a marked increase from 36 per cent turnout in 2007 and 23 per cent turnout in 2003.

Immigrants vote to the left

Immigrants have a markedly more left leaning voting pattern compared to the population without immigrant background. The Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Red Party received 70 per cent of the votes cast by immigrants in the 2007 election although this share was reduced to 65 per cent in 2011. The decrease came as Social Left Party lost support among immigrants; however the support for the Labour Party is still strong with a support of 58 per cent of immigrants. Immigrants are also represented by the left wing parties in the municipality councils. Among those with immigrant background, three out of four members in the municipal councils were elected on electoral lists representing the Labour Party, Socialist Left Party and the Red Party whereas in the regular election these three parties only won 35 per cent of the representatives.

Immigrants are not underrepresented in the municipal councils

Immigrants with background from Asia, Africa etc. comprised around six percept of persons eligible to vote in the local elections, whereas only two percept of all municipal council members had this background, so at first glace this could indicate that immigrants are underrepresented in the local municipal councils. However if we take into account the underlying demographic composition of the immigrant population, immigrants are better represented. The majority of immigrants live in the central municipalities in the eastern parts of Norway as well as in the major cities and in these municipalities immigrants are well represented. In total immigrants were overrepresented in 45 municipalities – and in these 45 municipalities - 56 per cent of all immigrants eligible to vote reside. Thus more than half of the immigrants in Norway with background from Asia, Africa etc. live in a municipality where they are overrepresented in their local municipal council.

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