Attitudes Toward Immigration: The Role of Personal Predispositions



This article examines if deep-seated psychological differences add to the explanation of attitudes toward immigration. We explore whether the Big Five personality traits matter for immigration attitudes beyond the traditional situational factors of economic and cultural threat and analyze how individuals with different personalities react when confronted with the same situational triggers. Using a Danish survey experiment, we show that different personality traits have different effects on opposition toward immigration. We find that Openness has an unconditional effect on attitudes toward immigration: scoring higher on this trait implies a greater willingness to admit immigrants. Moreover, individuals react differently to economic threat depending on their score on the traits Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Specifically, individuals scoring low on Agreeableness and individuals scoring high on Conscientiousness are more sensitive to the skill level of immigrants. The results imply that personality is important for attitudes toward immigration, and in the conclusion, we further discuss how the observed conditional and unconditional effects of personality make sense theoretically.