Immigration as a Threat: Explaining the Changing Pattern of Xenophobia in Spain

  • Mª Ángeles Cea D’AnconaEmail author


Scenarios of economic crisis and rising unemployment have never been favourable to immigration. However, the desire to tighten up on immigration policy may also arise within the context of economic growth and a drop in the unemployment rate. This article aims to explain the changing pattern of xenophobia and immigration policy in Spain. Opinion polls run in Spain from 1993 to 2012 are analysed and supplemented with survey data from Eurobarometers and qualitative materials from the MEXEES and Living Together projects and the 2011 qualitative Eurobarometer. In line with Group Conflict Theory, the economic recession accentuates the image of immigration as an economic threat, with the consequent increase in xenophobia. However, economic booms in themselves do not determine the acceptance of immigrants. Longitudinal monitoring of public opinion data corroborates the fact that both the feeling of economic threat (Group Conflict Theory) and cultural threat (Social Identity Theory) depend on the perceived presence of immigrants, along with the image and attention paid to immigration in the media and political discourse.


Xenophobia Immigration Public opinion Immigration policy 



This work was supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Finance and Competitiveness (CSO2012-36127) and the Ministry of Science and Innovation (CSO2009-07295). Some of the results were presented and discussed at the 11th European Sociological Association Conference (Turin, Italy, August 28–31, 2013). This final version has also benefitted from the excellent comments and suggestions made by anonymous reviewers.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Sociología IV, Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y SociologíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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