Evolving anti-immigration attitudes based on ESS data

ESS data offer excellent opportunities to deepen our current knowledge of changes in European anti-immigration attitudes, and make it possible to see how the evolution sketched by Semyonov et al. [Sem06] continued into the first decade of the third millennium.

Exercise 3.1: Calculate the evolution of anti-immigration attitudes

Our previous analyses have shown that the three anti-immigration items measure a single dimension (see exercise 1.3) and are suitable for comparisons across countries and time points (see exercise 2.1). Our scale can therefore be used to study the evolution of anti-immigration attitudes among European populations 1.

  1. Use SPSS to construct a new variable, ‘REJECT’, containing the sum of the three anti-immigration items (IMSMETN, IMDFETN and IMPCNTR). Remember that higher scores on REJECT indicate more negative attitudes towards immigration. Do not forget to save the dataset afterwards.
  2. Calculate the average score for REJECT separately for every country at every time point. Remember to use the design weight.

SPSS Syntax

  1. *Open the file you created in the first/second chapter, ESS123_immig. *Compute the variable ‘reject’ and save the file. **Please do not forget to change ‘C:\’ to the correct path.

    COMPUTE reject = imsmetn + imdfetn + impcntr.
    SAVE OUTFILE = 'C:\ESS123_immig.sav'.

  2. *Weight data and find each country’s mean value for the reject variable for each round.

    WEIGHT by dweight.
    MEANS reject by cntry by essround.

SPSS Output

Table 3.1. Mean of the variable REJECT by country and ESS round
Country - ESS round Mean N Std. Deviation
Austria - 1 7.8527 1671 2.11806
Austria - 2 7.2990 1867 2.24808
Austria - 3 7.4402 2049 2.13667
Austria - Total 7.5164 5587 2.18060
Belgium - 1 7.2628 1621 2.22334
Belgium - 2 7.4359 1553 2.38145
Belgium - 3 7.1374 1616 2.24029
Belgium - Total 7.2766 4790 2.28418
Switzerland - 1 6.5378 1576 1.77536
Switzerland - 2 6.6611 1667 1.95637
Switzerland - 3 6.7394 1377 1.94155
Switzerland - Total 6.6424 4620 1.89336
Germany - 1 6.8732 2543 2.08144
Germany - 2 7.4155 2456 2.32610
Germany - 3 7.3108 2504 2.29667
Germany - Total 7.1968 7502 2.24811
Denmark - 1 7.0469 1321 1.99110
Denmark - 2 7.1436 1351 2.03600
Denmark - 3 6.8682 1358 1.94497
Denmark - Total 7.0191 4030 1.99376
Spain - 1 7.1706 1376 2.43318
Spain - 2 7.1760 1432 2.49854
Spain - 3 7.6366 1624 2.57256
Spain - Total 7.3431 4431 2.51539
Finland - 1 7.5896 1859 2.03360
Finland - 2 7.6906 1936 2.00512
Finland - 3 7.6284 1787 1.97255
Finland - Total 7.6370 5582 2.00441
France - 1 7.4514 1234 2.10310
France - 2 7.4794 1529 2.25001
France - 3 7.4363 1725 2.15561
France - Total 7.4551 4488 2.17373
United Kingdom - 1 7.5859 1763 2.22641
United Kingdom - 2 7.4300 1615 2.27064
United Kingdom - 3 7.7632 2022 2.24488
United Kingdom - Total 7.6056 5400 2.25035
Hungary - 1 8.5644 1313 1.82187
Hungary - 2 8.5719 1231 2.27350
Hungary - 3 8.9042 1320 2.14962
Hungary - Total 8.6829 3865 2.09199
Ireland - 1 6.6475 1739 1.99185
Ireland - 2 6.6428 1975 2.25460
Ireland - 3 6.5988 1460 2.20434
Ireland - Total 6.6320 5174 2.15489
Netherlands - 1 7.2855 2111 1.99738
Netherlands - 2 7.4614 1671 2.18149
Netherlands - 3 7.5328 1660 2.24517
Netherlands - Total 7.4149 5441 2.13451
Norway - 1 6.8557 1861 1.95663
Norway - 2 6.8139 1601 1.94720
Norway - 3 6.6780 1587 2.00731
Norway - Total 6.7866 5049 1.97079
Poland - 1 7.0707 1811 2.06893
Poland - 2 6.7753 1576 2.33536
Poland - 3 6.2212 1580 2.33146
Poland - Total 6.7067 4967 2.26784
Portugal - 1 8.3959 1279 2.38004
Portugal - 2 8.6660 1706 2.30083
Portugal - 3 8.6937 1783 2.55076
Portugal - Total 8.6039 4768 2.42082
Sweden - 1 5.6455 1673 1.92080
Sweden - 2 5.6552 1679 2.09309
Sweden - 3 5.4564 1628 1.99722
Sweden - Total 5.5869 4980 2.00678
Slovenia - 1 7.2823 1240 2.09639
Slovenia - 2 7.3252 1187 2.32380
Slovenia - 3 7.3659 1208 2.26794
Slovenia - Total 7.3241 3635 2.22943
Total - 1 7.1984 27990 2.16807
Total - 2 7.2576 28031 2.31775
Total - 3 7.2771 28288 2.34036
Total - Total 7.2445 84310 2.27714

Weighted by design weight.

Questions

Solution

The means clearly show that the evolution of anti-immigration attitudes varies considerably from one country to another. Whereas anti-immigration sentiment flared up in some countries between 2002 and 2007, it decreased in others. In eight countries, the average REJECT score decreased from 2002 to 2007, indicating that attitudes have become more immigration-friendly. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. In the other nine countries studied here (Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Finland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia), resistance to immigration has risen, as the average score for REJECT increased between 2002 and 2007. Apparently, the evolution of attitudes does not follow regional lines. Among the Eastern European countries in the study, for example, very divergent patterns of evolution can be observed: While support for immigration crumbles in Hungary and Slovenia, attitudes are becoming more open in Poland. In Scandinavia, we find a decrease in anti-immigrant feelings in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but not in Finland.

Poland is the country with the most marked change by far in anti-immigration attitudes. Between 2002 and 2007, the average score for REJECT decreased by almost 0.85. Other countries with marked attitude changes are Austria, Germany and Spain.

Since REJECT increased in about half the countries, and decreased in the other half, it is hard to speak of a dominant trend across Europe. This is also reflected in the development of the pooled dataset shown in the previous table. For the total of all countries, the change in REJECT between 2002 and 2007 is quite small (to be precise: from 7.2771-7.1984 = 0.0786). The marked increase in anti-immigrant sentiment that has been seen in Europe between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s has thus not persisted during the first decade of the 21st century.

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Footnotes

References