ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance


Between generalisation and specificity: attitudes towards immigrants and ethnic minority groups 1

Session Organiser Dr Aneta Piekut (Sheffield Methods Institute, University of Sheffield)
TimeFriday 19th July, 11:00 - 12:30
Room D24

Despite the fact that many surveys ask about various categories of immigrants, attitudes towards immigrant targets are often analysed jointly in academic studies, after aggregating a few measures into a composite index or through modelling a common latent variable. This might help in improving construct validity, but might also pose challenges in data interpretation. Immigrant groups and various minority ethnicities are not homogenous and differ in terms of time of arrival, origin, dominant socio-demographic profile, occupations and public discourses towards them, hence they can mobilise differential attitudes. As such, by using generalisation procedures we might be losing quite a lot of valuable information about what the public thinks. At the same time, some public opinion polls only ask about opinions towards a broad category of ‘immigrants’, which brings a question of measure reliability, since respondents may be thinking about very different immigrant or ethnic groups, while answering this kind of questions.

In this session, we would like to explore diversity in opinions towards immigrants and minority ethnic groups. This session will specifically discuss whether the same theoretical mechanisms commonly applied in studies on attitudes towards a general category of immigrants, like contact hypothesis, integrated threat theory etc., work in the same way in case of all immigrant groups. We welcome papers unpacking differences in attitudes towards immigrant groups differing in ethnicity, race, age, gender, socio-economic status, religion or region of origin.

Keywords: attitudes towards immigrants, construct validity, measurement reliability

Migrant Acceptance and the Importance of Social Contact

Ms neli esipova (gallup) - Presenting Author
Miss JUlie Ray (gallup)
Miss anita PUgliese (gallup)

In reaction to the migrant crisis that swept Europe in 2015 and the backlash against migrants that accompanied it, Gallup developed a Migrant Acceptance Index (MAI) designed to gauge people’s personal acceptance of migrants not just in Europe, but throughout the rest of the world. Gallup’s index measures people's acceptance of migrants based on increasing degrees of personal proximity.

In this paper, we will discuss the results from Gallup World Poll surveys in 140 countries in 2016 and 2017. We will examine differences at the country and regional level, the relationship between people’s attitudes and cultural norms, and the way attitudes change with proximity.

One of the key findings from this research is the role social contact can potentially play in countering stereotypes against migrants and in easing their integration in their adopted countries. In all but five countries Gallup that surveyed, people scored higher on Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index if they personally knew at least one migrant. We also find that migrants are more likely to have higher wellbeing when they live in countries with high acceptance than if they live in countries with low acceptance.


Explaining Attitudes toward Immigrants in the Arab World: Findings from a Survey Experiment

Dr Bethany Shockley (University of Bath)
Dr Justin Gengler (Qatar University) - Presenting Author

Why do many citizens reject immigrants? One theoretically compelling explanation is that anti-outsider sentiment originates in fears over the economic threat represented by newcomers. Yet public opinion evidence from a variety of settings has not favored this theory, pointing instead to the challenge posed by individuals whose ethnic and cultural attributes are seen to threaten the native population. This paper extends the literature on anti-immigrant bias both geographically and conceptually by presenting a very hard test of the cultural threat hypothesis. It does so by investigating the determinants of attitudes toward immigration in a context in which its private financial consequences for citizens are both clear and extreme: the wealthy, resource-exporting Arab Gulf state of Qatar. An original survey and embedded experiment assess the drivers of citizen views toward recently-introduced immigration legislation and toward hypothetical candidates for permanent residency. A choice experiment presents respondents with two randomized sets of potential candidates for permanent residency, each of whose eligibility is based either on descent criteria or on economic criteria, and subjects are asked to give priority to one set over the other. The data show, first, that a majority of Qataris support extending economic benefits to a new class of permanent residents, contrary to expectations rooted in rentier state theory. But experimental results reveal a strong preference for candidates who possess a descent- rather than economic-based claim for permanent residency. Our findings demonstrate that Qataris are willing to share the immense financial advantages of rentier citizenship, but only with a narrow in-group perceived to satisfy the necessary ascriptive criteria. Thus, even in the very different cultural and political-economic setting of Qatar, we find that identity factors outweigh material considerations in shaping citizen orientations toward immigration.


Do the Media Affect Concerns about Xenophobia and Anti-immigrant Violence?

Mr Christian Czymara (Goethe University Frankfurt) - Presenting Author
Mr Stephan Dochow (University of Bamberg)

A growing field of research deals with the question how mass media shape public opinion about immigration and immigrants using real media data. One of the core arguments is that the media increase the perceptions that certain ethnic out-groups post a threat to the individual or to one’s own ethnic or social group. While this reasoning is generally plausible and much research focusses on the sources of threat perceptions, we take the opposite perspective and investigate how media reporting may boost what we call “out-group empathy.” Combining a quantitative content analysis of German newspaper and news magazine articles over 15 years with survey data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, we find that national salience of the immigration issue indeed increases individual concerns about xenophobic violence. Moreover, deeper analyses reveal that this empathizing effect of media reporting is especially potent for natives who identify with the social-liberal Green Party or The Left. An explanation of this fining is that these individuals generally tend to see newcomers less as a problem and thus are more concerned about their physical well-being. The large time-span we investigate suggests that this effect is not primarily driven by the recent attacks on refugees and their homes in recent times, but rather generalizable. The fact that media reporting on the same issue affects different concerns (threat vs. empathy) for different individuals points to the potential of mass media to, perhaps unintentionally, polarize the general public on the topic of immigration.


Who do you prefer not to have as a neighbour? An

Professor Ferruccio Biolcati Rinaldi (University of Milan)
Dr Riccardo Ladini (University of Milan) - Presenting Author

Since in recent years the salience of the immigration issue has largely increased in the Italian context, as well as in other Western European countries, it is of particular interest to assess the current level of natives’ social distance towards immigrants. In the European Values Study, the most suitable item to measure it brings together different dimensions, by asking individuals whether they would like or not to have "immigrants/foreign workers" as neighbours. Nonetheless, especially in a period where the media tend to refer to immigrants as refugees and not as workers of other nationalities, that item could lead to misleading results since individuals could give a different weight to the “immigrants” and “foreign workers” labels. By means of an experiment in the Italian edition of the European Values Study - World Values Survey 2017, our work aims at overcoming that issue. The experiment consists in randomly varying the formulation of the item: 70% of the sample receives the standard item, while the remaining part of the sample is respectively assigned to "foreign workers" (15 % of the sample) or "immigrants" (15% of the sample) items.
Our contribution has a threefold aim. Substantially, we want to identify and quantify the possible presence of a larger social distance towards those who are simply defined as immigrants, under the assumption that a foreigner is more tolerated when identified as a worker. Methodologically, the work intends to offer a starting point for reflection on the wording of questions on attitudes toward migrants in comparative surveys, by pointing out some limitations of the existent items. Furthermore, the use of experiments in a well-established survey with a high standard in the sampling and in the questionnaire administration allows providing empirical evidence characterized by both a high internal and external validity.