Chinese Foreign Real Estate Investment and Local Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections


Despite the increasing globalization of housing markets, little is known about its political implications. This study investigates whether rising Chinese investments in US homes influenced local voting in recent US presidential elections. Building on pocketbook/sociotropic voting and nativism theories, I develop hypotheses on the electoral consequences of foreign real estate investment through greater home demand and equity, improved local economies, and changing neighborhoods. Using difference-in-differences designs that combine a unique shock to Chinese capital outflows in 2013 with county-level measures of local attractiveness to Chinese investments, I find that greater exposure reduced Democratic vote shares in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Furthermore, an initially larger white population strengthened this effect, while a larger college-educated population weakened it. In contrast, local equity gains, housing competition, or economic strength did not systematically influence the effect. Together, the results appear more consistent with the pro-conservative effects of nativism.

International Studies Quarterly
Steven Liao
Steven Liao
Assistant Professor of Political Science