Back to overview

Local Xenophobia: Mobilization in the Context of Swiss Votes on Naturalizations

English title Local Xenophobia: Mobilization in the Context of Swiss Votes on Naturalizations
Applicant Kriesi Hanspeter
Number 101055
Funding scheme NRP 40+ Right-wing Extremism - Causes and Counter-measures
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.12.2003 - 31.01.2007
Approved amount 194'191.00
Show all

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Naturalization policies in Swiss municipalities

This project examines relations between Swiss citizens and foreign residents seeking naturalization and investigates the causes of differing rejection rates for naturalization applications among Swiss municipalities. We will attempt to show that the naturalization policies of the individual municipalities can be explained by cultural and political factors.

For some time now Switzerland has seen recurring fierce debates over the three-step naturalization process at the municipal, cantonal and federal levels generally and over discrimination against naturalization applicants from specific countries of origin in particular. Up to now, the naturalization issue has been discussed in the media and by researchers almost exclusively from the legal perspective. For this reason, the project takes a social scientific approach. Our interest is not so much directed towards normative questions on the constitutionality of certain naturalization procedures or on the allocation of authority among the federal government, cantons and municipalities. Instead, we want to gain a better understanding of the actual facts of naturalizations and the number of approved or rejected applications and to pursue the question of why some municipalities follow a more restrictive naturalization policy than others.

Aims and methods
The two-phase research design consists of a systematic, quantitative survey of 207 municipalities and an analysis of detailed case studies. This procedure will allow us to identify the impact of structural factors as well as to capture the different decision making processes in all their complexity. The survey of the municipalities will make it possible to collect previously unavailable data on naturalization rejection rates and detailed information on the formal naturalization procedures followed by each unicipality. Interviews with municipality administrators and a network analysis of the actors that are involved (formally and informally) in the decisionmaking process will yield a picture of the political decisionmaking processes in naturalization at the municipal level, the actors that succeed in exerting influence and the convictions that these actors follow.

The core issue in naturalization is the distinction between who is and is not a citizen of a country and who may become and who may not become a citizen.The findings of the research project will reveal how municipalities make decisions on naturalization applicants and the criteria according to which their foreign residents may become naturalized. We will attempt to show that naturalization procedures are political decision processes that are dependent on both cultural and institutional structures (such as the prevailing understanding of national citizenship and the local decision-making practices)and mobilizing political actors. The results of the project will reveal the complex aspects of the naturalization process and make an important contribution to the discussion on reforming Switzerland’s naturalization policy and practice.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants