Strong economic demand has driven immigration to European countries, and many studies have investigated its impact and the reactions to immigration. At the same time, there is a long European tradition of non-economic migration formed by asylum seekers and refugees, which attracted its share of studies. However, since the economic downturn after 2008 and more recently the large increase in asylum applications from the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, it is unclear whether our understanding of the responses to immigration remain valid. Circumstances have changed, combining economic pressures, high unemployment rates, with the inflow of new people; fears of strains on public resources have been evoked, ultimately threatening social cohesion and with that governance and democracy. This section will review existing theories and approaches in light of the new circumstances. A wide spectrum of reactions to immigration and its impact will be considered to provide a comprehensive assessment to what extent our understanding needs to be updated to match real-world developments.
A first set of contributions examines public opinion and attitudes towards immigrants and asylum seekers. While the inflow of immigrants is typically viewed with scepticism and opposed by some sections of society, recent research has highlighted that public attitudes may follow complex patterns. For example, during the last decade opposition to immigrants seems to have increased in the UK, while it appears to have decreased in France and Italy. Recent economic and non-economic changes in Europe make the present an ideal “laboratory” to review and refine past approaches that increasingly appear simplistic and undifferentiated.
A second set of contributions examines media reports and the framing of immigrants and asylum seekers. The media is the channel through which most people learn about immigrants and their (alleged) impact on destination countries. Yet, systematic analyses of how different groups of immigrants are presented in the media, and what arguments are provided to do something about immigration remain sparse. While media portrayal is of interest in itself, the combination of media data with public opinion or policy data promises new insights in the mechanisms and dynamics of opinion formation and policy-making.
A third set of contributions examines policies and changes in legal frames in reaction to recent developments. For decades European countries have developed innovative policies to attract immigrants to meet economic demand. Policy reactions after the beginning of the recent economic downturn, and particularly in face of the large inflow of asylum seekers in 2015 – often described as an “asylum crisis”, remain unexplored. Tensions between economic and non-economic assessments are likely to come to the fore, as are debates about multi-level governance and cooperation among European countries. It will be fruitful to compare the revived debates on irregular immigration in the US with debates on asylum seekers in Europe – many of which are unlikely to obtain asylum under the traditional rules of the Geneva Conventions. Similarly, there is little research on policy developments on family reunion or on integration of immigrants observed across European countries, like the Netherlands, France and in the UK.
A fourth set of contributions focuses on party politics and coalition formation. The raise of radical right-wing and anti-immigrant parties has been studied extensively, but relatively little is known how mainstream parties react to the changed circumstances and how they position themselves on immigration. The positions of mainstream parties have repercussions on policy-making, and of particular interest is how coalitions are affected. Across Europe, coalition governments have become more prominent in the last two decades, but existing research has almost exclusively focused on single party governments. Relevant research examines dynamics within coalitions, both in the presence and absence of a strong anti-immigrant party.
A final set of contributions focuses on the methods most appropriate to capture the evolving responses to immigration. Contemporary methodological debates in political science should also be applied to the field of migration. Of particular interest is how innovations and contemporary debates from other fields of political science can be extended to immigration studies, and which methods are most appropriate to capture the changing and diverse reactions to immigration across Europe.
The section will be of wide interest, not only to migration scholars, but also to political scientists focusing on party politics, public policy, public behaviour, or political economy. With that, the section will provide a venue for multi-disciplinary exchange against the backdrop of increasing specialization in the social sciences. Papers can focus on a single case, draw on comparisons, and use experimental or observational methods; qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods are equally welcome in this exchange across sub-disciplinary boundaries.
We welcome paper and panel submissions via the ECPR website by 15 February 2016.
The section will be chaired by João Carvalho, an advanced post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Research and Studies in Sociology, Lisbon University Institute. He has chaired a section at the 8th ECPR General Conference in Glasgow (“Bridging Worlds: Political Parties and Migration”). He is an active researcher, known for his 2013 book “Impact of Extreme Right Parties on Immigration Policy” with Routledge, and his recent contribution to Parliamentary Affairs (“The Effectiveness of French Immigration Policy under President Nicolas Sarkozy”). He has recently obtained a grant to study support and opposition to immigration in Portugal.
Didier Ruedin is a senior researcher at the University of Neuchâtel and visiting research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is known for his work on attitudes towards foreigners, the politicization of immigration, and political representation (“Why Aren’t They There?” with ECPR Press). He has recently obtained a grant to study attitudes towards foreigners using panel data in a comparative manner.