Protection of minorities is a hallmark of liberal democracy, but partisan competition typically requires appealing to majoritarian groups. When do electoral incentives encourage candidates to target immigrant communities with racist or discriminatory rhetoric?
This paper aims to address this question through a novel dataset of refugee-related Twitter posts by political elites in Lebanon, the country hosting the most Syrian refugees per capita globally.
Centering my analysis on the period surrounding the 2018 parliamentary election, I find that the election campaign period is characterized by increased levels of anti-migrant social media posts overall.
However, the electoral campaign does not affect candidates’ rhetoric uniformly. Rather, a candidate-level analysis reveals that increases in anti-refugee tweets are a product of varying district-level partisan competition specifically between Christian parties, whose voter base is particularly hostile towards refugees compared with other ethno-religious communities in Lebanon.
Overall, this paper helps elucidate the consequences of partisan competition for the rights of vulnerable populations in developing democracies.