The Democratic Consequences of Anti-immigrant Political Rhetoric: A Mixed Methods Study of Immigrants’ Political Belonging

  • Kristina Bakkær SimonsenEmail author
Original Paper


Anti-immigrant political rhetoric is proliferating in Europe, inspiring research to examine the potential effects on public opinion. However, studies of the reactions of first- and second-generation immigrants—the objects of this rhetoric—remain scarce. This article argues that political rhetoric should be treated as a context of integration affecting political outcomes, in particular political belonging. To that end, the article combines qualitative evidence from focus group discussions conducted in Denmark, a high-salience context, and quantitative evidence from cross-national survey and party manifesto data from 18 Western European countries over a 12-year period. In addition to demonstrating a negative mean effect, the analyses show that those most in focus of contemporary political messages (Muslims and immigrants with shorter educations) are most affected, suggesting a sophisticated processing of political rhetoric. In contrast, traditional explanations concerning structural incorporation, generational integration, and exposure to rhetoric are not supported. The article discusses the implications of the results for democratic inclusion in contemporary Europe.


Political rhetoric Immigrant integration Political incorporation Political belonging Mixed methods 



I am grateful for helpful comments from the anonymous reviewers, former editor Professor Peterson, current editor Professor Radcliff, participants at the 2017 American Sociological Association Conference and participants at the Centre for Immigration Policy Evaluation workshop, Concordia University.


Internal Grant, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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