Immigrants’ Political Attitudes. Assimilation or Divergence?

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from: 15:00
to: 16:15

This MPC Webinar will examine the assimilation of immigrants in their host societies by looking at political preferences, with a special focus on attitudes towards immigration amongst immigrants themselves.

In the wake of recent controversies around the effect of migration on demographic and cultural changes in receiving societies, the assimilation of immigrants has become a highly salient issue. In this regard, an important, but often overlooked, aspect of immigrants’ assimilation regards political preferences. Indeed, it is crucial to understand whether or not immigrants represent a different political bloc from their native counterparts: First, the study of political divergence may help us predict and prevent the risks of tension between natives and immigrants living in the same area. Second, immigrants’ political views are likely to alter the design of public policies in receiving societies where they make up a significant share of the voting population. To advance our understanding of political differences between natives and immigrants, scholars need to address a number of issues. What are the patterns of immigrants’ political assimilation? How do they differ across immigrants of different social, religious, and ethnic backgrounds? And what are immigrants’ preferences on issues such as immigration policy itself? Drawing on empirical evidence from European data, the Webinar will provide some answers to these questions. It will review migrant-to-native differences on issues of redistribution, restrictions on gay rights, European integration, attitudes to immigration, and political trust in Europe while highlighting differential patterns of assimilation across political issues and migrant cohorts.


Migrants attitudes towards immigration – convergence towards natives? Evidence from Europe, by Michaela Sedovic, London School of Economics, and Lenka Drazanova, MPC, RSCAS, EUI


With still-growing populations of migrants and their descendants in Europe the importance of interethnic relations not only between the migrant and native populations but also among different migrant groups in destination countries is crucial. There are significant differences in attitudes to immigration between European countries, but research is scarce on whether migrants´ attitudes in these countries are in time converging towards natives´ attitudes. Looking at 20 European countries we find that second-generation migrants’ attitudes to immigration converge towards those of the natives population regarding attitudes towards open borders. On the other hand, immigrants and second-generation migrants hold much more favourable attitudes regarding the effects of immigration on the destination country. The country of origin strongly moderates the first generation’s attitudes to immigration.


The Political Assimilation of Immigrants : Migrant-to-native Differences in Western Europe, by Jerome Gonnot, Research Associate, MPC, RSCAS, EUI


This paper documents the migrant-to-native gap in political preferences towards redistribution, restriction on gay rights, European integration, immigration policy, and political trust using repeated cross-sectional data from the European Social Survey. At the country level, our findings reveal that first-generation immigrants hold relatively more restrictive views on gay rights, show greater levels of trust in national parliaments and are more supportive of EU integration and open immigration policies than natives. These differences owe mostly to immigrants from low-income countries and immigrants’ religious beliefs. After controlling for immigrants’ background, further analysis indicates that the opinion gap on immigration policy no longer exists and that differences in political trust are reduced by 80% among immigrants that have spent at least 10 years at destination. In contrast, political divergences about gay rights and European integration remain stable while those regarding redistribution widen with the time spent at destination. These issue-specific patterns are also salient when studying convergence to regional and subregional political norms. In particular, while preferences about immigration policy and levels of political trust show clear signs of acculturation, i.e the transmission of political preferences through contact between natives and immigrants, our results suggest that migrants’ adoption of redistributive preferences in their host region is more likely to be driven by local context and opportunities than cultural assimilation. We interpret these differences as a reflection of the fundamentally heterogeneous nature of political preferences and the specific role played by self-interest and cultural drivers in shaping these preferences.


Intra-European Immigrants’ Attitudes towards non-European Immigration, by Ognjen Obucina, Researcher, French Institute for Demographic Studies, (INED)


Although not entirely unnoticed by social scientists, the research on mutual attitudes among migrant groups is less extensive than the sizeable body of research on attitudes towards migrants in the native population. This study seeks to fill this gap by exploring the attitudes of intra-European immigrants towards immigration from outside Europe. The principal goal of the study is to compare whether and how these attitudes are shaped by the attitudes towards non-European immigration among natives in both sending and receiving countries. The empirical analysis is based on repeated cross-sectional data from nine rounds of the European Social Survey. The nine rounds were conducted between 2002 and 2019. The sample consists of around 23,000 intra-European immigrants (European-born men and women living in Europe, in a country other than their country of birth) living in 38 European countries. The results suggest that more negative attitudes towards non-European immigration among natives at destination correspond to more negative attitudes among intra-European immigrants. At the same time, European immigrants’ attitudes towards non-European immigration are also positively associated with the attitudes expressed by natives in their home country. However, the magnitudes of the coefficients suggest that the role of natives’ attitudes in the receiving context is more important than that in the sending context.


Chair: James Dennison, Part-time Professor MPC, RSCAS, EUI.