American Political Science Review


Predisposing Factors and Situational Triggers: Exclusionary Reactions to Immigrant Minorities

a1 Stanford University
a2 University of Utrecht
a3 Princeton University


This paper examines the bases of opposition to immigrant minorities in Western Europe, focusing on The Netherlands. The specific aim of this study is to test the validity of predictions derived from two theories—realistic conflict, which emphasizes considerations of economic well-being, and social identity, which emphasizes considerations of identity based on group membership. The larger aim of this study is to investigate the interplay of predisposing factors and situational triggers in evoking political responses. The analysis is based on a series of three experiments embedded in a public opinion survey carried out in The Netherlands (n=2007) in 1997–98. The experiments, combined with parallel individual-level measures, allow measurement of the comparative impact of both dispositionally based and situationally triggered threats to economic well-being and to national identity at work. The results show, first, that considerations of national identity dominate those of economic advantage in evoking exclusionary reactions to immigrant minorities and, second, that the effect of situational triggers is to mobilize support for exclusionary policies above and beyond the core constituency already predisposed to support them.

c1 Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, 302 Encina West, Stanford, CA 94305-2044 (
c2 Professor, Department of General Social Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands (
c3 Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1013 (