Exposure to Immigration and Admission Preferences: Evidence from France

  • Katherine ClaytonEmail author
  • Jeremy Ferwerda
  • Yusaku Horiuchi
Original Paper


To what extent does exposure to immigration condition the types of immigrants citizens are willing to admit? Extending the conjoint approach adopted by Hainmueller and Hopkins (Am J Pol Sci 59(3):529–548, 2015), this study investigates whether the admission preferences of French natives vary based on personal exposure to immigration, as proxied by local demographics and self-reported social contact. Methodologically, we propose and apply new methods to compare attribute salience across different subgroups of respondents. We find that although an inflow of immigrants into respondents’ municipalities has a limited influence on how French natives evaluate prospective immigrants, social contact with immigrants matters. Specifically, French natives who do not frequently interact with immigrants are significantly less favorable toward immigrants from non-western countries, and more favorable toward immigrants from western countries. In contrast, natives who report frequent social interactions with immigrants place less weight on nationality as a criterion for immigrant admission. Although scholars have noted an increasing consensus in immigration attitudes across developed democracies, our findings suggest that individual experiences with immigration condition preferences for immigration policy at the national level.


Immigration Social contact theory Group threat theory Conjoint analysis France 


Supplementary material

11109_2019_9550_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (662 kb)
Supplementary material (PDF 663 kb)


  1. Adida, C. L., Laitin, D. D., & Valfort, M.-A. (2010). Identifying barriers to Muslim integration in France. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(52), 22384–22390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albertson, B., & Gadarian, S. K. (2012). Who’s afraid of immigration? The effects of pro- and anti-immigrant threatening ads among Latinos, African Americans, and Whites. In G. P. Freeman, R. Hansen, & D. L. Leal (Eds.), Immigration and public opinion in liberal democracies (pp. 286–306). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Allport, G. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  4. Ballard-Rosa, C., Martin, L., & Scheve, K. (2016). The structure of American income tax policy preferences. The Journal of Politics, 79(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bansak, K., Hainmueller, J., & Hangartner, D. (2016). How economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shape European attitudes toward asylum seekers. Science, 354(6309), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bechtel, M. M., Hainmueller, J., & Margalit, Y. (2014). Preferences for international redistribution: The divide over the Eurozone bailouts. American Journal of Political Science, 58(4), 835–856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bechtel, M. M., & Scheve, K. F. (2013). Mass support for global climate agreements depends on institutional design. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of USA, 110(34), 13763–13768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blumer, H. (1958). Race prejudice as a sense of group position. The Pacific Sociological Review, 1(1), 3–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bohman, A. (2015). It’s who you know. Political influence on anti-immigrant attitudes and the moderating role of intergroup contact. Sociological Research Online, 20(3), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brader, T., Valentino, N. A., & Suhay, E. (2008). What triggers public opposition to immigration? Anxiety, group cues, and immigration threat. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4), 959–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brubaker, R. (1992). Citizenship and nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Brunner, B., & Kuhn, A. (2018). Immigration, cultural distance and natives’ attitudes towards immigrants: Evidence from Swiss voting results. Kyklos, 71(1), 28–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burns, P., & Gimpel, J. G. (2000). Economic insecurity, prejudicial stereotypes, and public opinion on immigration policy. Political Science Quarterly, 115(2), 201–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carlson, E. (2015). Ethnic voting and accountability in Africa: A choice experiment in Uganda. World Politics, 67(2), 353–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chandler, C. R., & Tsai, Y. (2001). Social factors influencing immigration attitudes: An analysis of data from the general social survey. The Social Science Journal, 38(2), 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Citrin, J., Green, D. P., Muste, C., & Wong, C. (1997). Public opinion toward immigration reform: The role of economic motivations. The Journal of Politics, 59(3), 858–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Courtois, G. (2017, July 3). L’immigration et l’islam demeurent des sujets clivants en France. Le Monde. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from
  18. Dancygier, R. M. (2010). Immigration and conflict in Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dancygier, R. M., & Donnelly, M. J. (2013). Sectoral economies, economic contexts, and attitudes toward immigration. The Journal of Politics, 75(1), 17–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ersanilli, E., & Koopmans, R. (2010). Rewarding integration? Citizenship regulations and the socio-cultural integration of immigrants in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(5), 773–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Facchini, G., & Mayda, A. M. (2009). Does the welfare state affect individual attitudes toward immigrants? Evidence across countries. Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(2), 295–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fache, A. (2014, July 1). Au nom du ‘vivre ensemble’, la CEDH valide l’interdiction du voile intégral en France. L’Humanité. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from .
  23. Ferwerda, J. A., Flynn, D. J., & Horiuchi, Y. (2017). Explaining opposition to refugee resettlement: The role of NIMBYism and perceived threats. Science Advances, 3(9), e1700812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fetzer, J. S. (2000). Public attitudes toward immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ford, R. (2011). Acceptable and unacceptable immigrants: How opposition to immigration in Britain is affected by migrants’ region of origin. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(7), 1017–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Franke, S. (2005). La mesure du capital social: Document de référence pour la recherche, l’élaboration et l’évaluation de politiques publiques. Projet de recherche sur les politiques.
  27. Geddes, A., & Scholten, P. (2016). The politics of migration and immigration in Europe. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Green, E. G. T., Sarrasin, O., Baur, R., & Fasel, N. (2016). From stigmatized immigrants to radical right voting: A multilevel study on the role of threat and contact. Political Psychology, 37(4), 465–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hainmueller, J., & Hangartner, D. (2013). Who gets a Swiss passport? A natural experiment in immigrant discrimination. American Political Science Review, 107(1), 159–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hainmueller, J., Hiscox, M. J., & Margalit, Y. (2015). Do concerns about labor market competition shape attitudes toward immigration? New evidence. Journal of International Economics, 97(1), 193–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hainmueller, J., & Hopkins, D. J. (2014). Public attitudes toward immigration. Annual Review of Political Science, 17, 225–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hainmueller, J., & Hopkins, D. J. (2015). The hidden American immigration consensus: A conjoint analysis of attitudes toward immigrants. American Journal of Political Science, 59(3), 529–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hainmueller, J., Hopkins, D. J., & Yamamoto, T. (2013). Causal inference in conjoint analysis: Understanding multidimensional choices via stated preference experiments. Political Analysis, 22(1), 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harell, A., Soroka, S., Iyengar, S., & Valentino, N. (2012). The impact of economic and cultural cues on support for immigration in Canada and the United States. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 45(3), 499–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hellwig, T., & Sinno, A. (2017). Different groups, different threats: Public attitudes towards immigrants. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(3), 339–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Homola, J., & Tavits, M. (2018). Contact reduces immigration-related fears for Leftist but not for Rightist voters. Comparative Political Studies, 51(13), 1789–1820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hopkins, D. J. (2010). Politicized places: Explaining where and when immigrants provoke local opposition. The American Political Science Review, 104(1), 40–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hopkins, D. (2018). The increasingly United States: How and why American political behavior nationalized. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Horiuchi, Y., Smith, D. M., & Yamamoto, T. (2018a). Identifying voter preferences for politicians’ personal attributes: A conjoint experiment in Japan. Political Science Research and Methods. Scholar
  40. Horiuchi, Y., Smith, D. M., & Yamamoto, T. (2018b). Measuring voters’ multidimensional policy preferences with conjoint analysis: Application to Japan’s 2014 election. Political Analysis, 26(2), 190–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. International Organization for Migration. (2018). Global migration flows. The UN Migration Agency. Retrieved January 6, 2018, from
  42. Iyengar, S., Jackman, S., Messing, S., Valentino, N., Aalberg, T., Duch, R., et al. (2013). Do attitudes about immigration predict willingness to admit individual immigrants? Public Opinion Quarterly, 77(3), 641–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kettley, S. (2017, May 5). Marine Le Pen vs Emmanuel Macron: Where do they stand on immigration and the EU. Express. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
  44. Knoll, B. R., Redlawsk, D. P., & Sanborn, H. (2011). Framing labels and immigration policy attitudes in the Iowa Caucuses: Trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo. Political Behavior, 33(3), 433–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Krosnick, J. A. (1999). Survey research. Annual Review of Psychology, 50(1), 537–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Krumpal, I. (2013). Determinants of social desirability bias in sensitive surveys: A literature review. Quality and Quantity, 47(4), 2025–2047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Le Figaro. (2017, September 15). Sondage : les Francais jugent severement l’immigration. Le Figaro. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from
  48. Leeper, T. J., Hobolt, S. B., & Tilley, J. (2018). Measuring subgroup preferences in conjoint experiments. Working paper.
  49. Lejeune, G. (2013, November 13). Sondage exclusif : l’immigration n’est pas une chance pour la France. Valeurs Actuelles. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from
  50. Mayda, A. Maria. (2006). Who is against immigration? A cross-country investigation of individual attitudes toward immigrants. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(3), 510–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McLaren, L. M. (2003). Anti-immigrant prejudice in Europe: Contact, threat perception, and preferences for the exclusion of migrants. Social Forces, 81(3), 909–936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McLaren, L., & Johnson, M. (2007). Resources, group conflict and symbols: Explaining anti-immigration hostility in Britain. Political Studies, 55(4), 709–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Merolla, J., Karthick Ramakrishnan, S., & Haynes, C. (2013). Illegal, undocumented, or unauthorized: Equivalency frames, issue frames, and public opinion on immigration. Perspectives on Politics, 11(03), 789–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Newman, B. J. (2013). Acculturating contexts and Anglo opposition to immigration in the United States. American Journal of Political Science, 57(2), 374–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Newman, B. J., & Malhotra, N. (2019). Economic reasoning with a racial hue: Is the immigration consensus purely race neutral? The Journal of Politics, 81(1), 153–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Newman, B. J., & Velez, Y. (2014). Group size versus change? Assessing Americans’ perception of local immigration. Political Research Quarterly, 67(2), 293–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nossiter, A. (2017, April 20). Marine Le Pen leads far-right fight to make France more French. The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
  58. Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 65–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Quillian, L. (1995). Prejudice as a response to perceived group threat: Population composition and anti-immigrant and racial prejudice in Europe. American Sociological Review, 60(4), 586–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rubin, A. (2017, May 6). France chooses a leader, and takes a step into the unknown. The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
  61. Schmid, K., Al Ramiah, A., & Hewstone, M. (2014). Neighborhood ethnic diversity and trust. Psychological Science, 25(3), 665–674.Google Scholar
  62. Schneider, C. (2017). The sources of government accountability in the European Union. Evidence from a conjoint experiment in Germany. Working paper.
  63. Schneider, S. L. (2008). Anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe: Outgroup size and perceived ethnic threat. European Sociological Review, 24(1), 53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sciolino, E. (2004, February 11). French Assembly votes to ban religious symbols in schools. The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from
  65. Sides, J., & Citrin, J. (2007). How large the huddled masses? The causes and consequences of public misperceptions about immigrant populations. In Paper presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  66. Smith, T. W., Davern, M., Freese, J., & Hout, M. (2017). General social surveys, 1972–2016 cumulative codebook. National Opinion Research Center.
  67. Sniderman, P. M., de Figueiredo, R. J. P, Jr., Peri, P., & Piazza, T. (2002). The outsider: Prejudice and politics in Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Sniderman, P. M., Hagendoorn, L., & Prior, M. (2004). Predisposing factors and situational triggers: Exclusionary reactions to immigrant minorities. The American Political Science Review, 98(1), 35–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stein, R. M., Post, S. S., Rinden, A. L., Alford, J., Stevenson, R., Wlezien, C., et al. (2000). Reconciling context and contact effects on racial attitudes. Political Research Quarterly, 53(2), 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Strezhnev, A., Berwick, E., Hainmueller, J., Hopkins, D., & Yamamoto, T. (2017). cjoint: AMCE estimator for conjoint experiments. Version, 2.0.6.
  71. Sullivan, M., & Rich, T. S. (2017, November 29). Many refugees are women and children. That changes whether Americans want to admit them. The Monkey Cage. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from
  72. Teele, D. L., Kalla, J., & Rosenbluth, F. (2018). The ties that double bind: Social roles and women’s underrepresentation in politics. The American Political Science Review, 112(3), 525–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wagner, U., Christ, O., Pettigrew, T. F., Stellmacher, J., & Wolf, C. (2006). Prejudice and minority proportion: Contact instead of threat effects. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69(4), 380–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Quantitative Social ScienceDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Government, Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

Personalised recommendations