Chapter 1: Anti-immigration attitudes: concepts and measurements

Immigration flows into Europe have increased sharply during recent decades [Hoo08]. During the 1960s, for example, the yearly net migration into the countries that nowadays make up the EU-27 was less than 100,000 on average. In 2006, this figure exceeded 1.6 million. The fact that several European countries adopted more restrictive immigration policies during the 1970s has not prevented an increasing number of persons from settling in Europe, either as economic or labour migrants, political asylum seekers, or to reunify with family members [Cas03]. In recent years, immigration has accounted for the lion’s share of the population increase in the EU-15. Countries such as Sweden, Germany, Greece and Italy would even be facing negative population growth if all migration flows were frozen (European Communities 2004). Europe has de facto become a continent of immigration.

It is no exaggeration to say that the relations between immigrants and European host societies are quite tense at times. The electoral success enjoyed by anti-immigration parties [And96] [Lub02], for example, shows that substantial numbers of European citizens perceive immigration as having negative consequences. Survey research confirms the picture that negative feelings about immigration are quite widespread among the European populations. Inter-ethnic relations can be considered one of the key challenges facing contemporary European societies. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that social scientists from various disciplines have shown great interest in such anti-immigration attitudes.

Anti-immigration attitudes are also the topic of this EduNet module. Specifically, we will investigate how European anti-immigration attitudes have evolved in recent years. Several important research questions will be studied. To what extent are the ESS measures of anti-immigration attitudes comparable across countries and over time (Chapter 2)? How did European attitudes toward immigration evolve between 2002 and 2007 (Chapter 3)? And how can we explain the observed attitude trends (Chapter 4)? Before these questions are tackled, however, we reflect for a moment on how the concept ‘anti-immigration attitudes’ can be defined and operationalised using ESS data.

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