I’m happy to announce a new publication in ECPR’s open access Political Research Exchange (PRX).
In the article, I ask whether we need multiple questions to capture feeling threatened by immigrants. The answer is: it depends what you want to achieve. In many cases, the answers is ‘no’ — a single question or scale is enough to capture who is more opposed to immigrants. In other cases, however, we need the subtle differences in attitudes to different groups and thus ‘yes’ — multiple questions.
I use 24 different questions on potential neighbours to systematically vary the characteristics of immigrants in a representative survey in Switzerland, 2013. Respondents systematically consider immigrants from distant cultures and those more likely to receive welfare benefits as more threatening. At the same time, those who feel threatened by one kind of immigrants also tend to feel threatened by others. Questions about immigrants in the generic sense likely capture the right correlates, but they may miss differences in the level of threat evoked by different immigrants.
In some ways, this is a follow-up to my article in JEMS where I applied theories on attitudes to immigrants developed in Western countries to a non-Western country: South Africa. There I showed that research on attitudes to immigrants appears to generalize to non-Western contexts. These are validity checks for our theories, testing what we typically assume.