Skip to main content
Log in

The hidden European consensus on migrant selection: a conjoint survey experiment in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Acta Politica Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Over the last three decades, Northern European countries have become net-receivers of immigrants from non-EU-countries. According to previous research, this has polarised public attitudes and party systems. The article, however, points to a hidden consensus on what kinds of immigrants to accept and reject for residency. The article covers the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Denmark using a conjoint survey experiment conducted in 2019/2020. The article finds a public consensus on accepting those who are perceived to be an economic gain (working aged, educated, with language skills), are cultural proximate (Christian background) and have deserving reasons to migrate (personal persecution, civil war, or family unification). The public consensus cuts across the four covered countries, despite variations in political mobilisation and discourses on the migration issue, and exists between groups with different economic interests, cultural orientations and voting intentions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Alba, R., and N. Foner. 2015. Strangers no more—Immigration and the challenges of integration in North America and Western Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • An, B.P. 2015. The role of social desirability bias and racial/ethnic composition on the relation between education and attitude toward immigration restrictionism. The Social Science Journal 52 (4): 459–467.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bail, C.A. 2008. The configuration of symbolic boundaries against immigrants in Europe. American Sociological Review 73 (1): 37–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bansak, K., J. Hainmueller, and D. Hangartner. 2016. How economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shape European attitudes toward asylum seekers. Science 354 (6309): 217–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blinder, S., and Y. Markaki. 2019. Acceptable in the EU? Why some immigration restrictionists support European Union mobility. European Union Politics 20 (3): 468–491.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borjas, G.J. 2001. Heaven’s door: Immigration policy and the American economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brubaker, R. 1992. Citizenship and nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Burns, P., and J.G. Gimpel. 2000. Economic insecurity, prejudicial stereotypes, and public opinion on immigration policy. Political Science Quarterly 115 (2): 201–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ceobanu, A.M., and X. Escandell. 2010. Comparative analyses of public attitudes toward immigrants and immigration using multinational survey data: A review of theories and research. Annual Review of Sociology 36: 309–328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Haas, H., K. Natter, and S. Vezzoli. 2016. Growing restrictiveness or changing selection? The nature and evolution of migration policies. International Migration Review.

  • Eger, M.A., and S. Valdez. 2019. From radical right to neo-nationalist. European Political Science 18: 379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eger, M.A., and S. Valdez. 2015. Neo-nationalism in Western Europe. European Sociological Review 31 (1): 115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ford, R., and J. Mellon. 2020. The skills premium and the ethnic premium: A cross-national experiment on European attitudes to immigrants. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 46 (3): 512–532.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green, E.G. 2007. Guarding the gates of Europe: A typological analysis of immigration attitudes across 21 countries. International Journal of Psychology 42 (6): 365–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hagendoorn, L. 1995. Intergroup biases in multiple group systems: The perception of ethnic hierarchies. European Review of Social Psychology 6 (1): 199–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hagendoorn, L., and J. Hraba. 1989. Foreign, different, deviant, seclusive and working class: Anchors to an ethnic hierarchy in the Netherlands. Ethnic and Racial Studies 12 (4): 441–468.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hainmueller, J., D. Hangartner, and T. Yamamoto. 2015. Validating vignette and conjoint survey experiments against real-world behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112 (8): 2395–2400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hainmueller, J., and D. Hopkins. 2015. The hidden American immigration consensus: A conjoint analysis of attitudes toward immigrants. American Journal of Political Science 59 (3): 529–548.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hainmueller, J., and M.J. Hiscox. 2010. Attitudes toward highly skilled and low-skilled immigration: Evidence from a survey experiment. American Political Science Review 104 (1): 61–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hainmueller, J., and D.J. Hopkins. 2014. Public attitudes toward immigration. Annual Review of Political Science 17: 225–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hedegaard, T.F. 2021. Attitudes to climate migrants: Results from a conjoint survey experiment in Denmark. Scandinavian Political Studies 45: 25–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hedegaard, T.F., and C.A. Larsen. 2019. Oplevet jobkonkurrence og arbejdskraftsindvandringen. In Usikker moderitet. Danskernes værdier 1981 til 2017, ed. M. Frederiksen, 59. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels forlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Helbling, M., and H. Kriesi. 2014. Why citizens prefer high-over low-skilled immigrants. Labor market competition, welfare state, and deservingness. European Sociological Review 30 (5): 595–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hellwig, T., and A. Sinno. 2017. Different groups, different threats: Public attitudes towards immigrants. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43 (3): 339–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hjerm, M. 1998. National identities, national pride and xenophobia: A comparison of four Western countries. Acta Sociologica 41 (4): 335–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inglehart, R., and P. Norris. 2016. "Trump, Brexit, and the rise of populism: Economic have-nots and cultural backlash. SSRN Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2818659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Iyengar, S., S. Jackman, S. Messing, N. Valentino, T. Aalberg, R. Duch, K.S. Hahn, S. Soroka, A. Harell, and T. Kobayashi. 2013. Do attitudes about immigration predict willingness to admit individual immigrants? A cross-national test of the person-positivity bias. Public Opinion Quarterly 77 (3): 641–665.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kinder, D.R., and D.R. Kiewiet. 1981. Sociotropic politics: The American case. British Journal of Political Science 11 (2): 129–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kitschelt, H., and A.J. McGann. 1997. The radical right in Western Europe: A comparative analysis. University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsen, C.A. 2017. Revitalizing the ‘civic’and ‘ethnic’distinction. Perceptions of nationhood across two dimensions, 44 countries and two decades. Nations and Nationalism 23 (4): 970–993.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lipset, S.M. 1997. American exceptionalism: A double-edged sword. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lutz, P., and M. Bitschnau. 2022. Misperceptions about immigration: reviewing their nature, motivations and determinants. British Journal of Political Science 1–16.

  • Malhotra, N., Y. Margalit, and C.H. Mo. 2013. Economic explanations for opposition to immigration: Distinguishing between prevalence and conditional impact. American Journal of Political Science 57 (2): 391–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mayda, A.M. 2006. Who is against immigration? A cross-country investigation of individual attitudes toward immigrants. The Review of Economics and Statistics 88 (3): 510–530.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meuleman, B., E. Davidov, and J. Billiet. 2009. Changing attitudes toward immigration in Europe, 2002–2007: A dynamic group conflict theory approach. Social Science Research 38 (2): 352–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nielsen, M.H., M. Frederiksen, and C.A. Larsen. 2020. Deservingness put into practice: Constructing the (un) deservingness of migrants in four European countries. The British Journal of Sociology 71 (1): 112–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Norris, P., and R. Inglehart. 2009. Cosmopolitan communications cultural diversity in a globalized world. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Ostrom, E. 2000. Collective action and the evolution of social norms. Journal of Economic Perspectives 14 (3): 137–158.

  • Reeskens, T., and T. van der Meer. 2019. The inevitable deservingness gap: A study into the insurmountable immigrant penalty in perceived welfare deservingness. Journal of European Social Policy 29 (2): 166–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Richmond, A.H. 1994. Global apartheid: Refugees, racism, and the new world order. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Savelkoul, M., P. Scheepers, J. Tolsma, and L. Hagendoorn. 2011. Anti-Muslim attitudes in the Netherlands: Tests of contradictory hypotheses derived from ethnic competition theory and intergroup contact theory. European Sociological Review 27 (6): 741–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scheve, K.F., and M.J. Slaughter. 2001. Labor market competition and individual preferences over immigration policy. Review of Economics and Statistics 83 (1): 133–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schumacher, G., and K. van Kersbergen. 2016. Do mainstream parties adapt to the welfare chauvinism of populist parties? Party Politics 22 (3): 300.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sides, J., and J. Citrin. 2007. European opinion about immigration: The role of identities, interests and information. British Journal of Political Science 37 (3): 477–504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spruyt, B., and M. Elchardus. 2012. Are anti-Muslim feelings more widespread than anti-foreigner feelings? Evidence from two split-sample experiments. Ethnicities 12 (6): 800–820.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stefanelli, A., and M. Lukac. 2020. Subjects, trials, and levels: Statistical power in conjoint experiments.

  • Strabac, Z., T. Aalberg, and M. Valenta. 2014. Attitudes towards Muslim immigrants: Evidence from survey experiments across four countries. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (1): 100–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Hear, N., R. Brubaker, and T. Bessa. 2009. Managing mobility for human development: The growing salience of mixed migration.

  • Weiss, A., and M. Tulin. 2019. Does mentoring make immigrants more desirable? A conjoint analysis. Migration Studies 1–22.

  • Zaller, J.R. 1992. The nature and origins of mass opinion. Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Troels Fage Hedegaard.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare none.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Appendix

Appendix

See Fig. 5.

Fig. 5
figure 5

The average chance that a non-EU immigrant migrant with the following attributes would be allowed to live permanently in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. Presented with 95% confidence intervals

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hedegaard, T.F., Larsen, C.A. The hidden European consensus on migrant selection: a conjoint survey experiment in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. Acta Polit 58, 717–736 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-022-00261-8

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-022-00261-8

Keywords

Navigation