Xenophobia and Distribution in France: A Politico-economic Analysis

Document Type

Discussion Paper

Publication Date


CFDP Number


CFDP Pages



Anti-immigrant feeling (xenophobia) among voters has been proposed as a key factor explaining why, in the 2002 French national election, Jean Le Pen’s National Front Party won second place. Here, we study the effect of anti-immigrant sentiments among voters on the equilibrium position of political parties on the economic issue, which we take to be the size of the public sector. We model political competition among three parties (Left, Right, and Extreme Right) on a two-dimensional policy space (public sector size, immigration issue) using the PUNE model. We calibrate the model to French data for the election years 1988 and 2002, and show that politics have changed significantly over this period, from being centered primarily on economic issues to being centered on non-economic issues such as the immigration and security/law and order. We estimate that in 2002, the effect of voter xenophobia was to reduce the voters’ choice of public-sector size between 7% and 51% of one standard deviation of the population’s distribution of public-sector size ideal points, from what it would have been, absent xenophobia.

This document is currently not available here.