Threatened by diversity: Why restrictive asylum and immigration policies appeal to western Europeans

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Previous research has found that, especially in contemporary western Europe, culture or identity concerns are more important for explaining immigration and asylum policy preferences than economic concerns. This article advances this line of research by considering three new hypotheses, which specify how and why culture and identity concerns matter so much. The first two hypotheses distinguish between two different identity concerns that have arisen as a consequence of globalization – worries about declining national author- ity, on the one hand, and diminished national unity and uniqueness, on the other. The third hypothesis holds that anti-immigrant elites play an important role in persuading the public that restrictive immigration and asylum policies are an appropriate response to such concerns. Using survey data collected in 2003 for 18 western European countries and regions, the study finds overwhelming support for the second hypothesis. Western Europeans demand restrictive immigration and asylum policies mainly because they are concerned that diversity of religion, language and tradition will have a negative impact on their country.

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