Exercise 3.2: A graphical representation of attitude trends

A table showing means for 51 groups like the one presented above is not very easy to interpret. In many instances, graphs can be more insightful. Draw a line graph using a separate line to represent the evolution for every country. Put the average REJECT-score on the Y-axis, and the ESS round on the X-axis. Using the SPSS Chart Builder is the easiest way to draw the graph.

SPSS Chart Builder

Click ‘Graphs’ in the main horizontal tool bar, and then ‘Chart Builder’.

The Chart Builder wizard pops up. We start by defining the graph type. In the lower pane of the gallery, select ‘line’. Drag the second icon (with the multiple lines) into the upper pane of the chart builder. Now you can select the variables to be displayed by dragging the variable names (in the upper left corner) into the graph. Drag REJECT to the box next to the Y-axis, and ESSROUND to the X-axis. The variable COUNTRY should be dragged into the remaining box in the upper right corner (see Figure 3.2).

In the ‘Element Properties’ window, you should select 'Line1'. Make sure that the mean is calculated for the variable REJECT. Our previous analyses have shown that the averages for all country-time point combinations range between five and nine. In order to get a better view of country-specific evolution, it is a good idea to rescale the Y-axis so that only the relevant range of REJECT values is displayed. This is done by clicking ‘Element Properties’, select ‘Y-axis 1 (Line 1)’, and change the minimum and maximum values from automatic to 5 and 9. Finally, select ‘GroupColor (line1)’ in the ‘Element Properties’ window, and select ‘Show only categories present in the data’. Click 'Apply' in the 'Element Properties' window, and then OK in the Chart Builder to finalise the graph (see Figure 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5).

Figure 3.3Figure 3.4

* The SPSS syntax generated by the Chart Builder.

SOURCE: s=userSource(id("graphdataset"))
DATA: essround=col(source(s), name("essround"))
DATA: MEAN_reject=col(source(s), name("MEAN_reject"))
DATA: cntry=col(source(s), name("cntry"), unit.category())
GUIDE: axis(dim(1), label("ESS round"))
GUIDE: axis(dim(2), label("Mean reject"))
GUIDE: legend(aesthetic(aesthetic.color.interior), label("Country"))
SCALE: linear(dim(2), min(5), max(9))
SCALE: cat(aesthetic(aesthetic.color.interior))
ELEMENT: line(position(essround*MEAN_reject), color.interior(cntry), missing.wings())

SPSS Output

The graph essentially contains the same information as the means table we calculated before. However, the information is far more accessible. Here, it is obvious at first sight that Hungary and Portugal are the least immigration-friendly countries in the study, and that the Swedish population has the most positive attitudes toward immigration. There has clearly also been a marked evolution in Poland.


  1. Is the evolution that countries experience uniform (i.e. changing in the same direction over the entire period studied)? Or do they tend to go up and down instead?
  2. Are attitudes toward immigration converging in Europe? Or are European populations becoming more diverse in their attitudes instead?


The graph also provides additional insights into the data that are harder to deduct from the table.

  1. Not all countries are experiencing uniform attitude trends. In Finland, Denmark and Belgium, for example, anti-immigration attitudes grew stronger between 2002 and 2004, only to decline again afterwards. The opposite pattern is found in Austria.
  2. In spite of the fact that EU policy-makers are endeavouring to harmonise immigration policies, there is no evidence that attitudes toward immigration are converging in EU member states. On the contrary, the countries located at the extremes of the rankings seem to be moving away from the European average. In Hungary and Portugal, the countries where most resistance to immigration is found, anti-immigration attitudes are becoming even stronger. And in Sweden, already the most immigration-friendly country in 2002, we see growing support for immigration.

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