British Journal of Political Science

European Opinion About Immigration: The Role of Identities, Interests and Information

JOHN  SIDES a1 a and JACK  CITRIN a2 a
a1 Department of Political Science, George Washington University.
a2 Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

Article author query
sides j   [Google Scholar] 
citrin j   [Google Scholar] 


This article assesses the influence of material interests and cultural identities on European opinion about immigration. Analysis of respondents in twenty countries sampled in the 2002–03 European Social Survey demonstrates that they are unenthusiastic about high levels of immigration and typically overestimate the actual number of immigrants living in their country. At the individual level, cultural and national identity, economic interests and the level of information about immigration are all important predictors of attitudes. ‘Symbolic’ predispositions, such as preferences for cultural unity, have a stronger statistical effect than economic dissatisfaction. Variation across countries in both the level and the predictors of opposition to immigration are mostly unrelated to contextual factors cited in previous research, notably the amount of immigration into a country and the overall state of its economy. The ramifications of these findings for policy makers are discussed in the context of current debates about immigration and European integration.


a A previous version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, 2004. The authors wish to thank the reviewers and Editor for their many helpful suggestions; also Zachary Elkins, Martin Schain and Terri Givens for comments on earlier drafts; and Michael Murakami and Matthew Wright for their assistance in preparing the manuscript.