Values and attitudes toward immigration
11th December, in the International Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Research the seminar on "Values and attitudes toward immigration: a multilevel analysis". A presentation was made by Peter Schmidt, PhD, professor of Giessen University and HSE, the head of the laboratory.
Immigration has been on the rise in Europe in the last years. At the same time, there are studies indicating that also anti-foreigner sentiments have been high or on the rise in the last decades. Thus, studying the causes of negative attitudes toward immigration is very relevant: They may provide tools to understand such attitudes better and might be the basis for development of policies.
The previous studies explain the attitudes toward immigration by the different predictors. Some use sociodemographic variables, such as age, education, political orientation and income. Others include also macro-level variables: state policies, threat (economic conditions or percentage of foreign-born population) or media coverage. Recent studies have acknowledged that people also have values, and that these values play a central role in the explanation. So far, there are no studies that explain in a theory-driven way why there are differences in the effects of values across countries. The current study focuses on this aspect.
Two values were sorted out to explain negative attitudes toward immigration: universalism and conformity/tradition (conservation). The motivation of universalist people according to theory is protection for the welfare of all people. The arrival of immigrants into the country provides an opportunity for these people to realize this value. Therefore, a positive effect of universalism was expected on attitudes toward immigration.
The motivation behind conformity and tradition is commitment and acceptance of the customs or restraint of violating social expectations or norms. The arrival of immigrants is a threat for people who want to realize these values, as immigrants bring along new norms and customs. Therefore, a negative effect of conformity and tradition was expected on attitudes toward immigration. The effects of values are expected to be smaller in more embedded societies.
Analyses are based on data from the fourth round of the European Social Survey (ESS), 2008/9, which includes 26 West and East European countries, N = 46,353. Multiple-Group Confirmatory Factor Analysis (MGCFA) with 26 groups (countries) was conducted to test for invariance of the theoretical concepts Allow for immigration, Universalism and Tradition/Conformity.
The following results were obtained on the micro level (within countries): 1) Universalist individuals are more supportive of immigration; 2) Conservative individuals have a higher tendency to object immigration; 3) Effects show a clear and consistent pattern over all countries, and are stronger than the effect of sociodemographic variables like age, or income and as strong as education. On the cross-level interaction, there were shown that in countries where the level of embeddedness is higher, values have a weaker effect in the formation of attitudes. Also, the effect of conformity and tradition is stronger in countries where the size of the immigrant population is higher.