In a post last December, I used the European Social Survey to explore some of the determinants of people’s attitudes to immigrant.It used the first 4 waves of the European Social Survey (2002,04,06,08).
While I was largely focused on the cross-section variation i.e. the characteristics of individuals that were predicted, I noted the time variation. Basically Ireland became more pro-immigrant between 2002 and 2006 but this trend was reversed in 2008. I predicted that this reversal would be continued when the 2010 data became available due to the worsening economic situation. Well the data is now available and it gives me no pleasure to say that my prediction was correct.
The graph below plots the mean over time of a measure of pro-immigrant sentiment and one can see that the fall in 2008 is continued in 2010 (by construction, the heights sum to zero).
As a second exercise, I compared the distribution of this measure in 2002 and 2010. One can see that the distribution has shifted left over time (against immigrants) but the change is different across the distribution. The right tail doesn’t budge much: there is a “hard core” of liberals. Its the left tail that shifts the most. As a result, the distribution spreads out. In other words we have become more polarized in our attitudes towards immigrants (the standard deviation increases from .88 to 1.07). There may also be compositional effects as the number of immigrants in the population changes.
Technical note: I took three questions in the data (imbgeco, imueclt, imwbcnt). These ask respondents ask about whether immigrants are good for the economy, whether they enrich cultural life & whether they make the country good to live in. I took the first principal component and standardized it to have mean 0 and standard deviation of 1. There are also questions about immigration policy. I don’t use them.