English title: Social Distance, Symbolic Boundaries and Anti-Immigrant Attitudes in Europe: Explaining Exclusionary Policy Preferences

Author(s): Boris Heizmann -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2013


The present paper is dealing with majority preferences for immigration restriction in Europe in a cross-national and cross-regional multilevel perspective. We distinguish a preference for a quantitative reduction of immigration from the more qualitative approach of selecting immigrants by certain credentials. The former constitutes a specific form of social distance while the latter has previously been framed as an expression of symbolic boundarymaking. In this contribution we first inquire to what extent different forms of perceived immigrant threat and prejudice towards immigrants are tied to a demand for curbing immigration. For instance, what is the relative importance of economic and cultural forms of perceived threat for preferring to reduce immigration or to selectively allow only certain immigrants? In a second step we investigate to what extent these policy demands are tied to country- and region-specific structural differences. Do regional immigrant presence and economic circumstances impact whether immigration is seen as something that should be restricted, or are these policy preferences completely decoupled from these contextual factors? We finally examine to what extent integration policies and multicultural policies as social boundaries can explain cross-national differences in these policy attitudes. In order to answer these questions we run multilevel analyses on data of the first round of the European Social Survey 2002 in conjunction with aggregate data from Eurostat. The results show that economic and cultural concerns about immigration are similarly tied to a preference for a numerical reduction of immigration only. For a leaning towards establishing qualitative entry criteria for immigrants, cultural concerns play a larger role. Immigration reduction preferences are unrelated to immigrant presence and economic conditions within sub-national regions, but integration and multicultural policies both impact the extent of individual symbolic boundarymaking: The more inclusive a society’s integration regime, the lower the inclination to restrict immigration by features such as education or religion, net of several other structural or social political controls such as immigration shares, GDP or welfare regimes. The individual-level results furthermore reveal the strategic nature of individual boundarymaking since the findings for some of the socio-economic status dimensions in these models do not display the usual gradient. They rather suggest that the restriction of immigration to well-educated persons is unattractive particularly for disadvantaged majority members, which exemplifies the diverging logics according to which individual preferences concerning quantitative and qualitative immigration restriction are formed.

Conference name: 20th International Conference of Europeanists, Crisis and Contingency: States of (In)stability

Location: Amsterdam

Start date: Jun 25, 2013

Type: Paper