Identifying Charged Immigrant Attributes—Evidence from the U.S. and India Surrounding Citizens’ Attitudes Toward Foreign Nationals Open Access

Atlas, Zack (Spring 2021)

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Many scholars from countless disciplines have investigated the root of anti-immigrant sentiment. Some argue that economic fears are the primary driver, while others contend that social-psychological influences are to blame. Yet prior research often confounds multiple variables, such as which immigrants to admit, how many immigrants to admit, and how to address immigrants who are already present in the host country. This paper focuses on the question of which immigrants to admit. Using a conjoint experiment, we examine the impact five immigrant attributes have in engendering support or opposition for immigrants in the United States and India; both countries have large foreign born populations and have seen a recent surge in anti-immigrant sentiment. Drawing on a sample of respondents from Amazon Mechanical Turk, we find that both American and Indian respondents view immigrants who are religiously and linguistically similar more favorably, while an immigrant’s area of origin and reason for immigrating do little to improve their acceptance levels. Amongst Americans, there are varying levels of support depending on partisan lines but a broad consensus exists regarding which immigrants are the most desirable. Data from India suggests widespread agreement, too, with some variance in approval depending on caste. The results point to societal norms as a strong indicator of immigration attitudes. Our paper leaves room for further research. Utilizing more specific immigrant attributes to create a more extensive survey, we can paint a clearer picture of what drives anti-immigrant sentiment.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature Review 3

Economic Approaches 3

Labor Market Competition 3

Public Service Burden 6

Social Psychological Approaches 7

Observational Studies of Social-Psychological Influences 8

Experimental Studies of Social-Psychological Influences 9

Ethnocentrism, Stereotypes, and Public Perception 11

Psychology, Emotions, and Identity 12

Theoretical Argument 14

Hypotheses 17

Nationalism and Discrimination 17

Desire for Specialized Knowledge 18

Ability to Assimilate Linguistically 20

Religious Uniformity 21

Sympathy and Solicitude 22

Experimental Design, Data, and Measurement 24

Conjoint Analysis 24

Sample 27

Manipulation Checks and Data Cleaning 27

Results and Analysis 29

United States — Attributes’ Effect on Support for Immigrants 29

India — Attributes’ Effect on Support for Immigrants 35

Discussion and Conclusion 41

Works Cited 45

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