ESRA 2019 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

Does Complete Measurement Equivalence between Groups and over Time Mean that Measured Concepts Have the Same Meaning in Populations?

Professor Jaak Billiet (CeSO, KU Leuven) - Presenting Author
Dr Cecil Meeus (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Professor Bart Meuleman (Leuven University)

ABSTRACT: Longitudinal analysis of an invariantly measured latent variable “perceived ethnic threat” (PET) shows that averages of PET fluctuate over seventeen general surveys in Flanders (Belgium) in the 1991-2016 period. PET was found to be significantly lower in 2014 and 2016 than in each of the previous surveys. The highest score of PET, indicating the strongest negative attitude toward immigrants, was observed in 2010, the aftermath of the economic-financial crisis. The largest drop in PET was observed between the end of 2010 and 2014, and decreased still somewhat in 2016. This was unexpected since the 2014 data collection period started some months after the outset of the European refugee crises (Summer 2014), and in 2016 the data were collected after the terrorist attacks in Paris (November 13, 2015) and Brussels (March 22, 2016).
The unexpected findings indicating a drop in PET in two independent surveys were an occasion to analyse the trends in the four observed indicators measuring PET. The two items that expressed cultural (symbolic) threat did not evolve the same way as the two other (realistic) threat items. Therefore, two latent variables were specified. Analysis showed that the trends of the two latent variables (cultural and realistic threat) evolved indeed quite differently after 2003. Compared with the latent scores of realistic threat, the latent scores of cultural threat increased steady and faster until 2010. These findings suggest that measured concepts that pass statistical tests for measurement invariance can nevertheless hide important substantive nuances. This unexpected finding is checked against the trends found in the cultural and welfare threat items in ESS data from Belgium and its neighbouring countries (BE, DE, FR, GB, NL) in 2002-2017. We discuss what can be learned from both a substantive and a methodological point of view.

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.