Monday, January 7, 2019

Refugees Radicalize Voters

A new study:
Although Europe has experienced unprecedented numbers of refugee arrivals in recent years, there exists almost no causal evidence regarding the impact of the refugee crisis on natives’ attitudes, policy preferences, and political engagement. We exploit a natural experiment in the Aegean Sea, where Greek islands close to the Turkish coast experienced a sudden and massive increase in refugee arrivals, while similar islands slightly farther away did not. Leveraging a targeted survey of 2,070 island residents and distance to Turkey as an instrument, we find that direct exposure to refugee arrivals induces sizable and lasting increases in natives’ hostility toward refugees, immigrants, and Muslim minorities; support for restrictive asylum and immigration policies; and political engagement to effect such exclusionary policies. Since refugees only passed through these islands, our findings challenge both standard economic and cultural explanations of anti-immigrant sentiment and show that mere exposure suffices in generating lasting increases in hostility.


G. Verloren said...

I'm curious how different the results would be if instead of small rural islands with immigrants merely passing through, we instead had data on large urban cities where immigrants ultimately settled down to live.

The arrival of refugees is always going to trigger some sort of response, but I imagine that response depends largely on who is doing the responding, and what the local conditions actually are.

A small island village or town of a few hundred people having to cope with thousands or even tens of thousands of refugees passing through is going to have a very different experience and lingering perceptions than a far more populous city with far more space and resources receiving the same number of refugees permanently. And, of course, people living in cities are generally more cosmopolitan to begin with.

John said...

@G: that's a good point. I guess the problem is that it's hard to know which voters in a big metropolitan area have really been exposed to immigrants, hence the focus on islands.

In the US anti-immigrant sentiment is generally stronger is places with few immigrants.