Journal of ethnic and migration studies vol:33 issue:8 pages:1201-1226
Across Europe, voter turnout among immigrant minorities is lower than among native citizens. Social capital theorists like Putnam argue that being part of civic organisations fosters social trust which results in increased political participation. To examine Putnam's argument, we asked random samples of Turkish and Moroccan minorities in Rotterdam about their participation in various types of association, to what extent they trust others, and whether they voted in the last local and national elections. Our central research question was: 'Do civic organisations that generate trust have a more positive influence on participation in local and national elections than others?' We make a distinction between cross-ethnic (e.g. a Dutch neighbourhood association) and co-ethnic types of organisation (e.g. a Turkish youth club), as well as between horizontally structured or client-oriented (e.g. religious associations) and authority-oriented organisations (e.g. trade unions). We argue that cross-ethnic and client-oriented types of organisation are the most likely to foster generalised trust in one's fellow citizens. Our results confirm the expected direct positive relationship between cross-ethnic organisations and local voter turnout. Participation in co-ethnic organisations is indirectly positively related to voting through cross-ethnic participation. In addition, Moroccans are more likely to vote in local and national elections if they take part in client-oriented organisations, whereas Turks are more likely to vote if they are part of authority-oriented organisations. Lastly, although Turks with higher levels of social trust are more likely to vote, contrary to theoretical expectations, trust does not explain the observed relationships between civic engagement and voting.