Children of immigrants least likely to vote, study finds

June 11th, 2013

This article is more than 10 years old.

Marriage patterns identified as a reason for low electoral participation. Lawmakers hope better information and initiatives to make it easier to vote will break the trend

Ethnic minorities who are born and raised in Denmark are less likely than their parents to vote, according to research from the University of Copenhagen.

The study found that just 31.7 percent of children of immigrants from non-western countries participated in the voting process during the 2009 local elections. In comparison, 36.9 percent of their parents and 67.6 percent of white Danes voted.

“You could expect that children who are born in Denmark would adopt the voting norms of society as a whole,” Kasper Møller Hansen, from the University of Copenhagen, told Politiken newspaper. “Our society has been unable to stop the trend, and that is worrying.”

Hansen concluded that the low voting rates were due to a tendency among ethnic and social groups not to intermarry. Between 70 and 75 percent of non-western immigrants and more than 90 percent of Danes whose parents come from Pakistan, Somalia or Turkey marry someone with the same origin. For the ethnically Danish population, that figure is at 97 percent.

“That can contribute to the continual low voting tendencies among ethnic minorities, since two people who don’t vote will rarely make voting a mutually shared practice,” Hansen told Politiken.

The City Council recently allocated 300,000 kroner to efforts to improve voter participation, particularly among children of immigrants.

“This issue is one of the most serious problems in our democracy at the moment,” the deputy mayor for integration, Anna Mee Allerslev (Radikale), told Politiken.

Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd, an organisation for young ethnic minorities, has teamed up with the Children and Education Ministry to develop a set of guidelines it hopes will promote participation in the democratic process.

The interior minister, Margrethe Vestager (R), argued it was also important for parents to show the way. “Parents' willingness to vote is essential for the children’s interest in doing the same,” Vestager told Politiken. 

However, she said official initiatives, such as mobile polling places, could also help by making it easier to vote.

According to Danmarks Statistik, almost 120,000 children of immigrants from non-western countries currently live in Denmark.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive The Daily Post

Latest Podcast