ESRA 2019 Programme at a Glance


Public Attitudes Towards Migrants

Session Organisers Ms Kelsey Starr (Pew Research Center)
Dr Francesco Molteni (Università degli Studi di Milano - Department of Social and Political Sciences)
TimeFriday 19th July, 09:00 - 10:30
Room D25

This session includes papers that address public attitudes towards migrants and ways of measuring them.

Keywords: immigration, public opinion, tolerance, inter-ethnic relations

A New Scale for Measuring Tolerance

Ms Kelsey Starr (Pew Research Center) - Presenting Author
Mr Jonathan Evans (Pew Research Center)
Mr Scott Gardner (Pew Research Center)
Dr Neha Sahgal (Pew Research Center)
Ms Ariana Salazar (Pew Research Center)
Mr Omkar Joshi (University of Maryland, College Park)

With the recent rise in populism and nationalism around the world, interest in measuring public opinions on these topics has also risen. While specific questions measuring specific attitudes have been widely used, few analyses have aggregated a variety of measures to understand broad levels of tolerance across countries.
Using data from a recent survey on religion and public life in 15 Western European countries, Pew Research Center conducted factor analyses on a series of questions that looked at views on nationalism, immigration and religious minorities. Twenty-two of these questions were then combined into a weighted scale to determine overall levels of tolerance. Higher scores on the scale indicate a respondent agrees with a greater number of intolerant viewpoints. Logistic regression was then used to better understand if specific characteristics are more associated with higher scores, such as religious identity, age, political leanings or gender. This scale proved better than using individual survey variables to indicate tolerance and to understand the factors correlated with tolerance.


Anti-Immigration Attitudes in Europe, 2002-2016: A Longitudinal Test of the Group Conflict Theory

Dr Francesco Molteni (Università degli Studi di Milano - Department of Social and Political Sciences) - Presenting Author

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The rise of anti-immigration attitudes spreading around Europe is a hot topic both in the academia and in the public discourse. The literature is quite consistent in interpreting this change in the light of the competitive threats perceived by the majority of population. Many comparative studies that examine variations in discriminatory attitudes mainly rely on two forms of collective threats leading to prejudice: size of the outgroup and economic conditions. These examinations are usually performed by inspecting the cross-sectional relation between these population characteristics and discriminatory attitudes. This contribution goes further by inspecting the evolution of anti-immigration attitudes over time and by reading the longitudinal change as response to changing country-features. Results from a longitudinal multilevel model on the 8 waves of European Social Survey demonstrate how enduring country-differences do not have any impact on the individual anti-immigration attitudes. On the contrary, changes in the job market and in the size of the outgroup show a significant effect, being the effect of the latter the stronger. Nevertheless, in countries reporting the highest increase in the anti-immigration attitudes these two characteristics lose explanatory power. This suggests a reading which is based on the political appropriation of immigration issues.


Immigrant Population Innumeracy in Europe

Dr Hayk Gyuzalyan (CMC)
Professor Pierangelo Isernia (University of Siena) - Presenting Author
Mr Gianluca Piccolino (University of Siena)

Immigration population innumeracy is the tendency to incorrectly estimate the number or proportion of immigrants. Innumeracy has been measured in the US, EU and other countries, such as Tuekey, both at national level and in multi-country surveys such as ESS and Eurobarometer. A number of papers have been written on the subject in recent years, using the innumeracy both as a dependent and independent variables. Measuring and understanding this phenomenon is becoming more important due to the ongoing migrant crisis and changing attitudes to migrants and refugees in many European countries.

The paper looks at the questions asking the respondents to estimate the immigrant population in their own country, in each of EU28 Member States. The results show a substantively exaggerated perceived numbers of immigrants compared with the available data from Eurostat. The survey data comes from a Eurobarometer survey, and is compared against the number of foreign-born residents as reported by Eurostat.

The discrepancy between the respondent's estimate and the Eurostat data varies significantly between countries and respondents. The paper looks at the factors associated with the respondents' tendency to inflate the estimate of immigrants. The paper looks at the individual respondents' socio-demographic and attitudinal factors most correlated with innumeracy, including educational attainment, employment status, level of income, gender, and age.

The paper will also look at how innumeracy is exhibited in different EU countries, and whether the differences may be explained by the national political and socio-economic factors.


Which Macro Determinants Drive the Acceptance of Refugees? Examining Europe 2014-17

Mr Christian Czymara (Goethe-Universitaet Frankfurt) - Presenting Author

In the past few years, Europe has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of people that want to immigrate due to war or persecution. Most of these people originate from countries in Africa or the Middle East. The question how to deal with this inflow is currently dominating the political sphere and public debates throughout Europe. I investigate Europeans' attitudes toward the national refugee policy using data from the last two waves of the ESS. I model individual attitudes as a function of constant and time-varying macro-level conditions under control of potential individual-level confounders employing three-level hybrid hierarchical linear models. Based on the macro-level panel data, I find that attitudes are not affected by asylum rates in any way. However, the demography of a country does play a role: not only tend natives in countries with a larger share of foreigners to be less open toward refugees but especially does an increase in the foreign population during the period of analysis lead to more exclusionism. This effect seems to be especially driven by countries that played a key role in the course of the so-called immigration crisis, such as Germany, Austria and Hungary. This indicates that the politication of the issue is a crucial factor regarding the formation of public opinion. Such a reasoning is bolstered by the fact that it is primarily conservative individuals who's attitude are affected by rising inflow of newcomers.


Attitudes toward Economic Migrants in Andalusia (Spain)

Dr Sebastian Rinken (Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IESA-CSIC)) - Presenting Author
Dr Sara Pasadas del Amo (Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IESA-CSIC))

Most surveys on attitudes towards immigration and immigrants rely on two types of indicators: policy preferences (especially those concerning future inflows), on one hand, and perceptions of immigration’s impact, on the other. Where indicators on natives’ attitudes towards people of foreign origin are available, they usually refer to all immigrants rather than specific subgroups. This situation induces two conceptual shortcuts: (a) unfavorable policy preferences are commonly seen to denote anti-immigrant animosity, which (b) is supposed to apply regardless of any distinctive features. Hence, natives’ reservations regarding policy and perceived impacts are commonly misinterpreted as xenophobia.

This paper relies on four surveys on attitudes regarding immigration from less-developed countries conducted from 2008 through 2013 in Andalusia. In this part of Spain, the economic crisis pushed unemployment rates beyond 30%; thus, group-threat theory would predict anti-immigrant backlash. The questionnaire contained open-response items concerning immigration’s perceived positive and negative effects for Andalusia, respectively. Respondents who indicated any negative effects (a growing majority throughout the observation period) were asked whether they were thinking of immigrants in general, or else a specific type. At all measurement points, negative effects were attributed predominantly to economic migrants in general; only one fifth pinpointed specific areas of origin, with Eastern Europe taking the lead and Northern Africa coming in second. A similar ranking was obtained by a different item: about half of respondents said they felt distrust toward some specific group of immigrants, with Eastern Europeans and North Africans again being mentioned most often.

These data suggest that general dispositions prevail over attitudes towards specific immigrant groups: despite growing unease about immigration at times of severe economic downturn, only a minority of natives name specific groups as untrustworthy culprits. Further research is needed on the relationship of this attitude pattern with specific political and cultural context.