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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 〈〉. 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.