American Public Opinion on Immigration: Nativist, Polarized, or Ambivalent? – International Migration – article

American Public Opinion on Immigration: Nativist, Polarized, or Ambivalent?

Matthew Wright, Morris Levy | International Migration


“””For Dauvergne (2016), one consequence of the “end of settler societies” is nativism, or what she calls “mean‐spirited politics”: anti‐immigrant, anti‐Muslim, anti‐Multiculturalism. This accords with the prevailing tone of public opinion literature on the subject, which links anti‐immigrant hostility in settler societies to influxes of diversity and associated racial threat. In this essay, we determine just how closely this stylized vision of anxiety‐fuelled nativism resembles the true state of mass opinion about immigration. Using a variety of surveys fielded in recent years, we show that Americans: 1) hold generally positive views about immigration, though with a substantial dose of ambivalence about its consequences; 2) are not especially consistent in their policy attitudes over time; 3) express policy attitudes that readily depart from their underlying predispositions, and; 4) have only become more pro‐immigrant in recent years, and whatever partisan polarization exists on the issue stems from the fact that Republicans are becoming more positive at a slightly slower pace than Democrats. All of this suggests that, while there is a hard core of ethnocentrism and “”””mean‐spiritedness”””” in the U.S., the prevailing tone is much less negative than the standard portrayal assumes.”””


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