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Global Migration Centre

Why do immigrants oppose Immigration?

Why Do Immigrants Oppose Immigration? Comparing Economic, Cultural, and Contextual Explanations

About the project

Why do resident immigrants oppose further immigration to their host country? A number of recent studies have found that immigrants do not necessarily prefer more immigration, but disagree on why that is the case. Some studies argue that opposition to immigration is a result of resident immigrants’ cultural and political integration, i.e., the degree to which they have assimilated to natives’ immigration preferences. In contrast, others posit that opposition is driven rather by concerns about the impact of immigration on the economy and economic self-interest. To compare the relative explanatory power of different hypotheses, this study combines observational and experimental evidence by surveying resident immigrants in Switzerland. Specifically, the study employs a survey experiment in which the respondents are asked to evaluate different profiles of hypothetical prospective immigrants that vary in their economic and cultural characteristics. Bridging the fields of political psychology and political economy, this study’s findings will reveal whether natives and resident immigrants are affected by immigration in the same ways or diverge in crucial aspects.

Furthermore, the study questions whether attitudes towards newcomers and immigration are politically consequential. The literature on immigrant voting has demonstrated that immigrants tend to vote for left-wing parties, however, whether this vote choice is due to immigrant-friendly policies or socio-economic class interests, remains debated. Moreover, is immigration policy electorally as influential as stances on economic or tax policy? And if yes, does this mean that immigrants who are sceptical towards newcomers, would paradoxically be willing to vote for anti-immigrant parties? In a second survey experiment, respondents are consequently asked to choose between two hypothetical candidates running for election. In addition to varying their personal profile and party affiliation, the experiment will also manipulate policy standpoints towards immigration to test and untangle different explanations of immigrant vote choice. The findings of both experiments hold political implications for immigrants’ ability to advocate for themselves, their voting behavior, and the governance of diverse societies.



September 2019-September 2023

Funding Organization

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

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