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The salience of immigration and its effects on welfare priorities


Enggist, Matthias (2020). The salience of immigration and its effects on welfare priorities. In: ECPR General Conference, Virtual, 24 August 2020 - 25 August 2020, 1-30.

Abstract

Immigration has undoubtedly become one of the most salient topics in Western Europe and has often been linked to the welfare state – mostly by radical right parties. A large number of studies have, thus, investigated how immigration affects public support for redistribution and the welfare state. Findings, though, remain inconclusive: whereas some studies find a negative effect of immigration on support for the welfare state, many do not. However, it would be mistaken to draw from these findings that the increasing salience of immigration is inconsequential for citizens’ welfare preferences. Based on recent arguments that immigration might influence support for social policy differently depending on policy design, I contend that immigration being salient does not necessarily affect how much welfare state citizens want but rather what kind of a welfare state. I argue that immigration being at the forefront of one’s thinking primarily affects which social policies are prioritized over others.
This paper presents both the theoretical argument and the design of a unique survey experiment which will be conducted this autumn in three West European countries (Germany, Sweden, and the UK) in order to test this claim. Preliminary results from a pre-test conducted in the UK show that priming respondents with immigration enhances their preference for consumption over social investment policies since only the former can insure people against immediate economic insecurities caused by immigration. Moreover, voters with anti-immigration attitudes tend to move away from supporting policies, in which they perceive immigrants to be overrepresented among the recipients, when primed with immigration. Specifically, immigration seems to increase support for old age pension while substantially undermining support for active labour market policies. Although these preliminary findings should be treated cautiously, they would have important implications for welfare politics. While the often-mentioned fear of immigration undermining support for welfare spending seems exaggerated, heated debates about immigration can weaken support for the social investment paradigm at the expense of the traditional, consumptive welfare state.

Abstract

Immigration has undoubtedly become one of the most salient topics in Western Europe and has often been linked to the welfare state – mostly by radical right parties. A large number of studies have, thus, investigated how immigration affects public support for redistribution and the welfare state. Findings, though, remain inconclusive: whereas some studies find a negative effect of immigration on support for the welfare state, many do not. However, it would be mistaken to draw from these findings that the increasing salience of immigration is inconsequential for citizens’ welfare preferences. Based on recent arguments that immigration might influence support for social policy differently depending on policy design, I contend that immigration being salient does not necessarily affect how much welfare state citizens want but rather what kind of a welfare state. I argue that immigration being at the forefront of one’s thinking primarily affects which social policies are prioritized over others.
This paper presents both the theoretical argument and the design of a unique survey experiment which will be conducted this autumn in three West European countries (Germany, Sweden, and the UK) in order to test this claim. Preliminary results from a pre-test conducted in the UK show that priming respondents with immigration enhances their preference for consumption over social investment policies since only the former can insure people against immediate economic insecurities caused by immigration. Moreover, voters with anti-immigration attitudes tend to move away from supporting policies, in which they perceive immigrants to be overrepresented among the recipients, when primed with immigration. Specifically, immigration seems to increase support for old age pension while substantially undermining support for active labour market policies. Although these preliminary findings should be treated cautiously, they would have important implications for welfare politics. While the often-mentioned fear of immigration undermining support for welfare spending seems exaggerated, heated debates about immigration can weaken support for the social investment paradigm at the expense of the traditional, consumptive welfare state.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Language:English
Event End Date:25 August 2020
Deposited On:28 Dec 2020 15:16
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 07:10
Publisher:European Consortium for Political Research
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:https://ecpr.eu/Events/Event/PaperDetails/54464 (Organisation)
https://ecpr.eu/Events/156 (Organisation)
https://ecpr.eu/ (Organisation)

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