Study: Immigration Skeptics Not Necessarily Xenophobic

Several interesting claims in a new European study:

“Given how central the immigration issue has been for the new radical right-wing parties in Western Europe, many have turned to immigration-related factors in trying to explain their emergence and electoral mobilisation. This research has convincingly shown that immigration scepticism (i.e., wanting to reduce immigration) is among the principal factors for predicting who will vote for a radical right-wing party,” investigators in Stockholm, Sweden report.

Can this be used for some comparative analysis? Are the immigration skeptics in the U.S. more likely to look for Third Party candidates on the ‘right’ or vote for a staunch nativist Republican (Tom Tancredo)? I think we do know how disgruntled the nativists were with the two primary choices in these past elections.

“However, earlier studies have often uncritically equated immigration scepticism with xenophobia or even racism. By using data from the first round of the European Social Survey (2003) involving six West European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway), this article differentiates between immigration scepticism and xenophobic attitudes. The analyses strongly indicate that xenophobic attitudes are a far less significant factor than immigration scepticism for predicting who will vote for the new radical right. Moreover, this article analyses the extent to which anti-immigration frames employed by radical right-wing parties resonate with attitudes held by supporting voters, and to what extent they make a difference for people’s decision to vote for the radical right. The analyses indicate that frames linking immigration to criminality and social unrest are particularly effective for mobilising voter support for the radical right.

Help me out here. How is immigration skepticism not tied to xenophobia? Any type of ideology that calls for stricter border controls or place limits on immigration feeds into the political construct of borders, and hence reinforces the ‘foreignness’ of the Other across borders.

(Immigration sceptics, xenophobes or racists? Radical right-wing voting in six West European countries European Journal of Political Research, 2008;47(6):737-765).

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