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Political Nationalism and Attitudes towards Immigration: The Interaction of Knowledge and Policy

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

The issue of immigration is highly salient to citizens of industrialised democracies. Globalisation and the emergence of an international human rights regime, among other reasons, led to high levels of immigration to industrialised countries in recent decades. Immigrant-receiving states have shown only limited ability to control the size and composition of their immigrant population. Immigration has therefore emerged as a prominent political issue in practically all economically developed countries, and there are raising concerns over anti-immigration sentiments and nationalist tendencies that seem to be taking hold among modern publics. We argue that anti-immigration attitudes are not merely a response to increased immigration, but rather that these attitudes mirror governments’ nationalistic and anti-immigration stance. In addition, people who are interested in politics are expected to be more influenced by their governments’ policies than those who show less interest. We use data from the European Social Survey and the Comparative Manifesto Project to test these claims. Results from our multilevel models show that people living in countries where the government is right wing are more opposed to immigration than people living in countries where the government exhibits less right-wing tendencies. The effect of government policy positions is also found to be conditioned by political interest at the individual level.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor in Political Science, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX, USA ; 2: Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway ; 3: Assistant Professor in Statistics, Trondheim Business School, Trondheim, Norway


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