Has Opposition to Immigration Increased in the United States after the Economic Crisis? An Experimental Approach


  • [Minor typographical changes have been made to this article since it was first published.]

  • We would like to acknowledge the support of Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) without which this work would not be possible. In the development of this work, we benefitted from the technical support of Graeme Blair and Kosuke Imai. We also appreciate the feedback received from the presentation of an earlier draft to the Politics Methods Seminar at Princeton University and the Demography and Sociology Research Group (DEMOSOC) at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra.


We employ two population-level experiments to accurately measure opposition to immigration before and after the economic crisis of 2008. Our design explicitly addresses social desirability bias, which is the tendency to give responses that are seen favorably by others and can lead to substantial underreporting of opposition to immigration. We find that overt opposition to immigration, expressed as support for a closed border, increases slightly after the crisis. However, once we account for social desirability bias, no significant increase remains. We conclude that the observed increase in anti-immigration sentiment in the post-crisis United States is attributable to greater expression of opposition rather than any underlying change in attitudes.