Political Threat and Immigration: Party Identification, Demographic Context, and Immigration Policy Preference


  • *Direct correspondence to George Hawley, Department of Political Science, University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77204 〈george.hawley@gmail.com〉. For their helpful comments, the author thanks Jennifer Clark, Jarron Saint Onge, Robert Lineberry, and the anonymous reviewers.


Objective. I propose that the effect of partisanship on views on immigration is context dependent. I argue that Republicans in counties experiencing high levels of immigration are more likely to support new immigration restrictions in contrast to Democrats and Independents than Republicans in counties with a relatively small foreign-born population, and I suspect this is the case because Republicans in high-immigration counties feel politically threatened by the foreign-born residents, who are more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Method. To test this theory, I create hierarchical logit models of views on immigration policy in which individual party identification interacts with the size of the local immigrant population. Individual-level data were drawn from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey and county-level contextual variables from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Results. I find that the effect of partisanship on individual views on immigration is context dependent; native-born Republicans are more likely to support immigration restrictions when their local community has a large immigrant population and Democrats less likely.

Conclusion. In areas where immigration levels are low, partisanship is a weak predictor of immigration views. As the foreign-born population increases, however, the views of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents increasingly diverge.