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Determinants of peoples attitudes towards immigration

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1881 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This paper analyzes the determinants of individual attitudes towards immigration within a group of students that study in UK. We consider three different types of components that influence each individual approach towards immigration. In the first scenario, we assumed that people’s attitudes toward immigration will be influenced by which political party they support. In the second scenario, we assumed that individuals who live in a city will have more positive attitudes towards immigrants than an individual who lives in a town, or a village. The third assumption was that individual which have been outside UK several times are more likely to form positive attitudes towards immigration, than people who have never been outside UK. What we found was that there was not a significant difference in attitudes toward immigration in all three components.

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The definition of attitudes is: “Attitudes is a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor” (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p1). The term is part of our commonsense language, and everyone understands and uses it to express attitude towards religion, racism, work, politics and many other things. Every day, each of us is exposed to countless stimuli which change and reinforce our attitudes. It is not coincidental, that Allport (1935) thought of attitudes as the most indispensable part of social psychology. A few psychologists even considered the whole psychology as scientific study of attitudes (Thomas & Znaniecki, 1918).

Attitudes toward immigration vary within every society and there are many factors that play a significant role to that. In a paper examining the growing restrictiveness of late 19th century immigration policy, Timmer and Williamson (1998) argued that economic factors were sufficient to explain the anti-immigration backlash that occurred in the major host countries of the New World at that time. They constructed an index of immigration barriers in the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia and Brazil from 1850 to 1930, based on a careful reading of each country’s immigration legislation. What they found was that the most consistently significant variable explaining the rise in immigration barriers was economic inequality. Rising equality encouraged more open immigration policies, while rising inequality encouraged more restrictive immigration policies.

According to Mayda (2004), correlation between pro-immigration attitudes and individual skill, should be related to the skill of natives relative to immigrants in the destination country. Skilled individuals should favour immigration in countries where natives are more skilled than immigrants and oppose it otherwise. The results of her research support her hypothesis. Skilled individuals support immigration whether immigrants are skilled or not and oppose it if they are not skilled.

In similar fashion Scheve and Slaughter (2001) conducted a survey to analyze the determinants of individual preferences over immigration in USA. What they found was that less-skilled workers were significantly more likely to prefer limiting immigrant inflows into the United States. Also, they found no evidence that the relationship between skills and immigration opinions is stronger in high-immigration communities.

Hainmueller and Hiscox (2007) studied individual attitudes towards immigrants across Europe. What they found was that more educated people are significantly less racist and place greater value on cultural diversity than do their counterparts. They are also more likely to believe that immigration generates benefits for the host economy as a whole. On the contrary, the connection between the education or skill levels of individuals and views about immigration appears to have very little to do with fears about labour-market competition. They also found that a large component of the link between education and attitudes toward immigrants is driven by differences among individuals in cultural values and beliefs.

Recent surveys conducted in UK show that two thirds of the people think that UK has immigration problem. The Guardian reports that the British are the only people in Western Europe who want immigration controls at the national rather than the European level, whilst they have little confidence in the UK authorities’ handling the issue. The poll suggests the British are more anti-immigrant and xenophobic than the rest of Western Europe, blaming immigrants for unemployment, and split over whether to grant them equal social benefits.

Given the impact of the recession on employment in the west over the last year, in one of the polls was found that 54% of the people in UK agreed with the statement that “the crisis meant that immigrants were taking jobs from the native-born”. Also the British thought that immigrants depressed wage rates.

Another interesting founding is that Britons wanted to deny legal immigrants equal social benefits, they favoured reinforcing border controls to combat illegal immigration, and they did not support legalising the status of illegal immigrants.

This study focuses on students studying in UK. The study that was constructed focused in three primary areas. Firstly, it took into consideration the place that its individual lives or live. The hypothesis was that people that lived in cities would more likely have positive attitudes toward immigration, than people who live in villages and towns. Secondly, it was thought that the political views of the individual will have an impact in his/her attitude toward immigration. In this question, it was hypothesized that people that support the liberal democrat party will have more positive attitudes than people that support the labour or conservative party. Lastly, travelling outside UK was thought that it will have an impact on the individuals’ attitude toward immigration. In this question it was assumed that individuals’ that had travelled outside UK several times would have more positive attitudes toward immigration than those that did not.

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The questionnaire consisted of four questions. The first question was “what is the general attitude towards immigration”? The answer was either positive or negative, and the participants had to tick one the boxes. The next question was “which political party best encompasses your views”? In this question there were three available answers and the participants had to tick one of the boxes. In this question we assumed that Liberal Democrats will have more positive attitudes toward immigration than the Labour and Conservative parties. Third question was “how would you describe the place where you live”? Again we have three available answers and participants have to tick on. In this question people that lived in a city would be more likely to have positive thoughts of immigration than people that live in towns and villages. Third question was “how many countries have you visited outside UK”? In this question we assumed that people who have travelled more abroad would have more positive attitudes towards immigration.

Participants and Procedure

Twenty undergraduate students at Swansea University took part in the questionnaire (14 female and 6 male) aged between 18 and 28.

The participants were given a questionnaire to complete. It was emphasized to them that their results will be treated in the strictest confidence, and that they will not be divulged to anyone in a manner that would allow their identification. Also the participants were told that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of the questions and they should give their immediate response to the individual items, rather than having a careful thought out and deliberate response.


Using Rx C Chi Square Test of association we found that for the political views the critical value was .29. For the countries visited we also found that critical value was .29. Lastly, for the place that its individual lives, critical value was 3.07. Comparing it to the critical value of chi square=5.99 we can conclude that there is not significant difference in all the questions. Therefore, participant’s attitudes towards immigration were not significant, whether where they grew up, what political party they support and how many times they have travelled abroad.


The results in this study were not significant to support our hypothesis. In all the questions the critical value was lower than the chi-squares’ critical value, but we have to take into consideration that there were three or more cells that had an expected frequency of less then three which could explain why none of the results were significant.

Even though our hypothesis could not be supported while doing the chi-square test of association some of the results could be very useful. In the first question which was about the political party which each individual supports, from the 20 students that participated in the survey ten of them supported liberal democrats, and eight of them had positive attitudes towards immigration. Considering liberal democrats’ political views this result supports our hypothesis. In the second question where the participants had to describe the place they lived, we found that most of them lived in towns and village and only one in a city. Our hypothesis here was that people that lived in cities would probably have more positive attitudes about immigration since they would have to associate with more immigrants, and they would be more open minded, than they would if they lived in a village or a town. Since only one person lives in a city our hypothesis could not be argued. Nineteen of the participants live in villages and towns and most of them have positive attitudes toward immigration which does not support our assumption. Lastly, in the question of how many countries have they visited outside UK, we hypothesised that the individuals that had been outside UK several times would have more positive attitudes towards immigration than those that had never left the county. Seventeen of the participants had travelled more four times outside UK and twelve of them had positive attitudes toward immigration which supports our hypothesis.

In future studies, to provide better results we should have each individual complete the questionnaire alone and not among other people. Some individuals might have given wrong replies because they would not want other people to think that they are racists. Another thing we should consider is where each individual lives. We could argue our hypothesis better if we had equal amount of people living in cities, towns and villages. The same could be said for people that have travelled abroad many times, a few times, or have not travelled at all. Lastly we should have equal amount of women and men to compare if gender plays a role in attitudes toward immigration.


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