American Political Science Review

Research Article

Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition


a1 Georgetown University


In ethnic and racial terms, America is growing rapidly more diverse. Yet attempts to extend racial threat hypotheses to today's immigrants have generated inconsistent results. This article develops the politicized places hypothesis, an alternative that focuses on how national and local conditions interact to construe immigrants as threatening. Hostile political reactions to neighboring immigrants are most likely when communities undergo sudden influxes of immigrants and when salient national rhetoric reinforces the threat. Data from several sources, including twelve geocoded surveys from 1992 to 2009, provide consistent support for this approach. Time-series cross-sectional and panel data allow the analysis to exploit exogenous shifts in salient national issues such as the September 11 attacks, reducing the problem of residential self-selection and other threats to validity. The article also tests the hypothesis using new data on local anti-immigrant policies. By highlighting the interaction of local and national conditions, the politicized places hypothesis can explain both individual attitudes and local political outcomes.


c1 Daniel J. Hopkins is Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University, ICC 674, 37th and O Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20057 (


This research was supported by the Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard University, the Yale University Center for the Study of American Politics, and the MIT Department of Political Science. The author gratefully acknowledges helpful advice, comments, or support from Matt Barreto, Andrea Campbell, Rafaela Dancygier, Ana De La O Torres, Claudine Gay, Alan Gerber, Donald Green, Justin Grimmer, Sunshine Hillygus, Gregory Huber, Gary King, Gabriel Lenz, Robert D. Putnam, Elizabeth Saunders, Ken Scheve, Deborah Schildkraut, Cara Wong, and Ian Yohai. Nick Hayes assisted in identifying anti-immigrant ordinances. Robert Nix provided a list of local actions on immigration for which I am indebted as well. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Columbia University Quantitative Political Science Seminar, the Dartmouth American Politics Seminar, the Harvard Applied Statistics Seminar, the Yale University American Politics Workshop, and the 2007 conferences of the Midwest Political Science Association and the American Political Science Association. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the APSR coeditors for many helpful recommendations. This article previously circulated under the title “Threatening Changes.”