Countries across Western Europe attract large numbers of immigrants. While some regard immigration positively and underline benefits, others view it with suspicion. Scholars in many fields have studied why some individuals oppose immigration and foreigners more than others. Political scientists, sociologists, social psychologists, and economists have all refined the basic argument of unwanted competition in the labour market and increasingly underline the role of prejudice, ideology, context, and cultural values. However, scholars have not yet adequately addressed how attitudes towards immigration develop and change over time, and under what circumstances they are maintained. This creates the condition for ill-informed policy decisions and a perpetuation of resentment among parts of the population.
This research will remedy this gap in the literature by examining the dynamics of individual-level attitudes towards foreigners using panel data in a cross-national framework. The project will examine three related research areas – the role of neighbourhoods in shaping attitudes, socialisation, and the stability or persistence of attitudes. By so doing the study clarifies the relationship between individual background, context, and negative attitudes towards foreigners.
This research is expected to contribute to debates on immigration more widely, as it has direct bearings on how the social impact of immigration in receiving countries can be managed. By placing longitudinal data at the heart of the analysis, this project is able to overcome endogeneity biases due to omitted variables and the relatively small number of cases in most existing studies. A dissemination event will engage actively with stakeholders to explore how to alleviate negative feelings and increase social cohesion.