Anti Immigration poster from Viktor Orban government in the streets of Budapest during the 2018 general elections campaign.

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Anti-Immigrant Populism

Anti-immigration is opposition to immigration exists in all states with immigration and has become a significant political issue in many countries. Immigration in the modern sense refers to movement of people from one state or territory to another state or territory where they are not citizens. Illegal immigration is immigration in contravention of a state’s immigration laws. Anti-immigration ranges from calls for various immigration reforms to proposals to completely restrict immigration to one’s nation; these often also include measures to combat immigration of existing citizens.

According to an article by Hajo G. Boomgaarden and Rens Vliegenthart, anti-immigrant populism is on the rise throughout western Europe. “Traditionally, economic and immigration-related factors are used to explain support for anti-immigrant parties at the aggregate level,” they said and continued “Some critics of immigration argue that the presence of immigrants may distort the national identity of the native population. That means that the native population opposes immigration because they fear they may lose their sense of belonging to their own nation, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.

Meanwhile, as Mark Porubcansky wrote in an article, in Slovenia, an anti-immigration party came in first in elections in June 2018. And an upstart anti-immigration party is running neck-and-neck with traditional parties ahead of September elections in Sweden in 2018. “The countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are even more entrenched in their populist anti-immigrant politics. The appeal of the anti-immigrant far right, in this case the National Front in France, is also on the mind of the French president. As a candidate, Macron praised Merkel’s liberal immigration policies, but after he was elected, he tried to tighten up immigration laws. Across the Europe, with some exceptions, anti-immigration populism is driving the agenda,” wrote Porubcansky.

Migration crises, and the chaos they engender, can also bolster support for populist radical-right and anti-immigration platforms, says Martin Schain in a report titled “Shifting Tides: Radical-Right Populism and Immigration Policy in Europe and the United States”. The report states that the electoral breakthroughs and success of European parties that campaign on such platforms long predate the recent migration crisis, but the pace and scale of arrivals in 2015 and 2016 fueled a radical-right discourse of borders being out of control and dangerous immigrants entering without proper vetting. Some other excerpts from the report are as follows:

The success of the German far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in September 2017 and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) a month later was directly related to a hardening of views by voters on both the right and the left in light of the refugee crisis. In Austria, the largest parties on the right gained votes, while those on the left either lost votes (the Greens) or barely held their own (the Social Democrats). The FPÖ, which entered government for the first time in ten years, captured a number of key ministries. In Europe, the 2015–16 migration crisis not only strained migration-management and asylum institutions, it also posed a more existential challenge to European integration.

Feelings of insecurity linked to migration have been underpinned by a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and the US. In fact, very few of these attacks were perpetrated by asylum seekers, or by jihadists (13 out of 142 classified by Europol in 2016). Nevertheless, some high-profile attacks, such as the November 2015 attacks in Paris, were carried out by people with an immigration background, heightening concerns about integration and the vulnerability of some first- and second-generation immigrants to radicalization. The fear of future attacks remains high and is played upon by some politicians with populist radical-right views.

“Trust in politicians and institutions has been decreasing across Europe is not the fault of populist radical-right parties, but rather a symptom of broader societal trends that encourage their support. Established politicians may need to do some potentially painful soul-searching to (re-)connect with their modern base. A whole-of-society approach must also include a commitment to uprooting prejudicial attitudes and fighting discrimination in the workplace, housing, education, and other key social areas by putting sufficient resources and political support behind antidiscrimination campaigns and programs.

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van Heerden, S., de Lange, S. L., van der Brug, W., & Fennema, M. (2014). The immigration and integration debate in the Netherlands: discursive and programmatic reactions to the rise of anti-immigration parties. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies40(1), 119-136.

Cutts, D; Ford, R and Goodwin, M (2010) “Anti-immigrant, politically disaffected or till racist after all? Examining the attitudinal drivers of BNP support in the 2009 European elections”, European Journal of Political Research, published online August 2010.

Goldschmidt, T. (2015). Anti-immigrant sentiment and majority support for three types of welfare: The case of Germany. European Societies 17(5): 620-652. doi:10.1080/14616696.2015.1088959 (A pre-print version of this article is available here)

Fasel, N., Green, E. G. T., & Sarrasin, O. (2013). Facing cultural diversity. Anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe. European Psychologist, 18, 253-262.

Akkerman, Tjitske & Hagelund, Anniken. (2007). ‘Women and Children First!’ Anti-Immigration Parties and Gender in Norway and the Netherlands. Patterns of Prejudice. 41. 197-214. 10.1080/00313220701265569.

Heiss, R., von Sikorski, Ch., Matthes, J. (2019). Populist Twitter posts in news stories: Statement recognition and the polarizing effects on candidate evaluation and anti-immigrant attitudes. Journalism Practice, 13(6), 742-758.

Heizmann, Boris. 2016. “Symbolic Boundaries, Incorporation Policies, and Anti-Immigrant Attitudes: What Drives Exclusionary Policy Preferences?.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39 (10): 1791-1811. doi:

Krzyzanowski, M. (2013). From anti-immigration and nationalist revisionism to islamophobia: continuities and shifts in recent discourses and patterns of political communication of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). In: Ruth Wodak, Majid KhosraviNik, Brigitte Mral, Right-wing populism in Europe: politics and discourse (pp. 135-148). London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Bolin, N., Lidén, G. & Nyhlén, J. (2014). Do Anti-immigration Parties Matter? The Case of the Sweden Democrats and Local Refugee Policy. Scandinavian Political Studies, vol. 37: 3, ss. 323-343.  

Loxbo, K. (2014). Voters’ Perceptions of Policy Convergence and the Short-term Opportunites of Anti-immigrant parties: Examples from Sweden. Scandinavian Political Studies. 37. 239-262.

Erlingsson, G.Ó., Loxbo, K., Öhrvall, R. (2012). Anti-immigrant parties, local presence and electoral success. Local Government Studies. 38. 817-839.

Heiss, R., von Sikorski, C., & Matthes, J. (2019). Populist Twitter posts in news stories: Statement recognition and the polarizing effects on candidate evaluation and anti-immigrant attitudes. Journalism Practice13(6), 742-758.

Schmuck, D., & Matthes, J. (2017). Effects of economic and symbolic threat appeals in right-wing populist advertising on anti-immigrant attitudes: The impact of textual and visual appeals. Political Communication, 34(4), 607-626.

Matthes J., & Schmuck, D. (2017). The effects of anti-immigrant right-wing populist ads on implicit and explicit attitudes: A moderated mediation model. Communication Research, 44(4), 556-581.

Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Boomgaarden, H. (2016). Austria: Candidate-centered and anti-immigrant right-wing populism. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck, & C. De Vreese (Eds.), Populist Political Communication in Europe (pp. 85-98). New York: Routledge.

Schmuck, D., & Matthes, J. (2015). How anti-immigrant right-wing populist advertisements affect young voters: Symbolic threats, economic threats, and the moderating role of education. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(10), 1577-1599.

Matthes J., & Schmuck, D. (2017). The effects of anti-immigrant right-wing populist ads on implicit and explicit attitudes: A moderated mediation model. Communication Research, 44(4), 556-581. doi:10.1177/0093650215577859

Meuleman, B., Abts, K., Slootmaeckers, K., Meeusen, C. (2019). Differentiated threat and the genesis of prejudice. Group-specific antecedents of homonegativity, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant attitudes. SOCIAL PROBLEMS, 66 (2), 222-244. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spy002

Meeusen, C., Abts, K., Meuleman, B. with Meeusen, C. (corresp. author) (2019). Between solidarity and competitive threat? The ambivalence of anti-immigrant attitudes among ethnic minorities. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 71, 1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2019.04.002

Meuleman, B., Abts, K., Meeusen, C. (2017). Walloons as general or specific others? A comparison of anti-Walloon and anti-immigrant attitudes in Flanders. Psychologica Belgica, 57 (3), 75-97.

Meeusen, C. (2014). The parent-child similarity in cross-group friendship and anti-immigrant prejudice: A study among 15-year adolescents and both their parents in Belgium. Journal of Research in Personality, 50 (1), 46-55.

Continuity and change in anti-immigrant discourse in Italy: An analysis of the visual propaganda of the Lega Nord — JE Richardson, M Colombo; Journal of Language and Politics, 2013, 12 (2), 180-202

Burgoon, Brian, and Matthijs Rooduijn (forthcoming) “‘Immigrationization’ of welfare politics? Anti-immigration and welfare attitudes in context.” West European Politics.

Todd, John (2016). How (not) to counter populist anti-immigration narratives: the story of the EU referendum campaign. British Politics Review, 11(4): 10- 11.

Bos, L., & van der Brug, W. (2010). Public images of leaders of anti-immigration parties: perceptions of legitimacy and effectiveness. Party Politics16(6), 777-799.

van Spanje, J., & van der Brug, W. (2009). Being intolerant of the intolerant: the exclusion of Western European anti-immigration parties and its consequences for party choice. Acta Politica44(4), 353-384.

van Spanje, J., & van der Brug, W. (2007). The party as pariah: the exclusion of anti-immigration parties and its effect on their ideological positions. West European Politics30(5), 1022-1040.

van der Brug, W., Fennema, M., & Tillie, J. N. (2005). Why Some Anti-Immigrant Parties Fail and Others Succeed: A Two-Step Model of Aggregate Electoral Support. Comparative Political Studies38(5), 537-573.

van der Brug, W., & Fennema, M. (2003). Protest or mainstream? How the European anti-immigrant parties developed into two separate groups by 1999. European Journal of Political Research42(1), 55-76.

van der Brug, W., Fennema, M., & Tillie, J. N. (2000). Anti-immigrant parties in Europe: Ideological or protest vote? European Journal of Political Research37, 77-102.

Sobolewska, M., English, P., Morales, L., van der Wardt, & Van Hauwaert, S. M. (forthcoming). Mobilisation, counter-mobilisation and access to power: Does descriptive representation follow the anti-immigration mood?. In L. Morales and T. Saalfeld (Eds.), Understanding the patterns of political representation of citizens of immigrant origin in Europe (chapter 4). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heelsum, A.J. van, ‘Anti-Immigrant Sentiments in the Netherlands and the Reactions of Moroccan Association’, in: Samy S. Swayd (ed.) Islam: Portability and Exportability, UCLA International Institute Paperseries, paper 6, G E von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies University of California, Los Angeles, 2008, p. 67-70.

van Klingeren, M., Boomgaarden, H. B., Vliegenthart, R., & de Vreese, C. H., (2015). Real World is not enough: Media as an Additional Source of Anti-immigrant Sentiment, a comparison between the Netherlands and Denmark, 2003-2010. European Sociological Review. Vol. 31, No. 3, 268–283.

Jacobs, L., & van Spanje, J. (2019). Martyrs for Free Speech? Disentangling the Effects of Legal Prosecution of Anti-immigration Politicians on their Electoral Support. Political Behavior

Burscher, B., van Spanje, J., & de Vreese, C. H. (2015). Owning the issues of crime and immigration: the relation between immigration and crime news and anti-immigrant voting in 11 countries. Electoral Studies38, 59-69.

Azrout, R., van Spanje, J. H. P., & de Vreese, C. H. (2013). Focusing on differences? Contextual conditions and anti-immigrant attitudes’ effects on support for Turkey’s EU membership. International Journal of Public Opinion Research25(4), 480-501. 

Vliegenthart, R., Boomgaarden, H. G., & van Spanje, J. (2012). Anti-immigrant party support and media visibility: a cross-party, over-time perspective. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties22(3), 315-358.

Azrout, R., van Spanje, J., & de Vreese, C. (2011). Talking Turkey: anti-immigrant attitudes and their effect on support for Turkish membership of the EU. European Union Politics12(1), 3-19.

Dinas, E., & van Spanje, J. (2011). Crime story: the role of crime and immigration in the anti-immigration vote. Electoral Studies30(4), 658-671. 

van Spanje, J. (2011). The wrong and the right: a comparative analysis of ‘anti-immigration’ and ‘far right’ parties. Government and Opposition46(3), 293-320.

van Spanje, J., & van der Brug, W. (2009). Being intolerant of the intolerant: the exclusion of Western European anti-immigration parties and its consequences for party choice. Acta Politica44(4), 353-384. 

Damstra, Alyt & Jacobs, Laura & Boukes, Mark & Vliegenthart, Rens. (2019). The impact of immigration news on anti-immigrant party support: unpacking agenda-setting and issue ownership effects over time. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. 1-22. 10.1080/17457289.2019.1607863.

Boomgaarden, Hajo & VLIEGENTHART, RENS. (2009). How News Content Influences Anti-immigration Attitudes: Germany, 1993–2005. European Journal of Political Research. 48. 516 – 542. 10.1111/j.1475-6765.2009.01831.x.

Boomgaarden, Hajo & Vliegenthart, Rens. (2007). Explaining the Rise of Anti-Immigrant Parties: The Role of News Media Content. Electoral Studies. 26. 404-417. 10.1016/j.electstud.2006.10.018.

Boomgaarden, Hajo & Vliegenthart, R.. (2007). Explaining the rise of anti-immigrant parties: The role of news media content in the Netherlands. Tijdschrift Voor Communicatiewetenschappen. 26. 404-417.

Heiss, R., von Sikorski, C., & Matthes, J. (2019). Populist Twitter posts in news stories: Statement recognition and the polarizing effects on candidate evaluation and anti-immigrant attitudes. Journalism Practice, 13(6), 742-758. 

Rethinking Anti-Immigration Rhetoric after the Oslo and Utøya Terror Attacks — Wiggen, Mette; New Political Science: Right-Wing Populism and the Media, 01 December 2012, Vol.34(4), pp.585-604.

Radical right success and mainstream parties’ anti-immigrant policy shifts (with Werner Krause), Democratic Audit UK, 07/2018.