9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS04 Europe and Immigration

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Public Opinion: Mutual Perceptions Among Majorities and Minorities Building I, 1E9

Why Do "Good" People think that Immigrants are "Bad"?

Media and academic research on attitudes towards immigrants suggest that anti-foreigner sentiments are part of everyday life in many European countries and become more and more presentable in all sorts of contexts, including politics. The causes of xenophobia, though very complex, are often identified in political orientations (e.g. leaning towards the far-right, authoritarian "minds") and personal experiences (for instance, fears about social security) in the literature. Nevertheless, we know rather little about perceptions of the more specific perceived "harm" done to society by immigrants. Furthermore, it is not clear whether only "bad" people are against foreigners, where bad usually refers to right-wing party voters, holders of anti-democratic views or those opposing equality and integration. But what about anti-immigrant sentiments in general as these views become more widespread? Here, we also set out to portray "good" people and their views with respect to anti-immigrant sentiments. Are they so much different? Using data from Round 3 of the European Social Survey, we offer a study differentiating between the perceived impact of immigrants on economy and culture on an overall assessment of the consequences of immigration for the "host country". Applying multilevel regression techniques, the cross-national comparative analysis explores a series of objective and subjective determinants of anti-foreigner sentiment. We tentatively conclude that xenophobia is not an attitude of only "bad" people any longer but that the "immigrants are bad" belief is widespread across a large number of European countries.