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Cosmopolitan Immigration Attitudes in Large European Cities: Contextual or Compositional Effects?



Europe is geographically divided on the issue of immigration. Large cities are the home of Cosmopolitan Europe, where immigration is viewed positively. Outside the large cities—and especially in the countryside—is Nationalist Europe, where immigration is a threat. This divide is well documented and much discussed, but there has been scant research on why people in large cities are more likely to have favorable opinions about immigration. Debates about geographic differences generally highlight two explanations: contextual or compositional effects. I evaluate the two with data from the European Social Survey, the Swiss Household Panel, and the German Socio-Economic Panel. Results support compositional effects and highlight the importance of (demographic and cultural) mechanisms that sort pro-immigration people into large cities. This has several implications for our understanding of societal divisions in Europe; most notably that geographic polarization is a second-order manifestation of deeper (demographic and cultural) divides.


Corresponding author

*Rahsaan Maxwell, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,


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Previous versions were presented at the George Washington University, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Toronto, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Denver, Georgetown University, and the American Political Science Association Annual Conference. I would like to thank Boris Wernli and the Swiss Household Panel for data assistance and access to commune-level data. I would also like to thank Michaela Engelmann, Jan Goebel, Christine Kurka, and the German Institute for Economic Research for data assistance, research support, and access to neighborhood-level data for the German Socio-Economic Panel. Cameron Ballard-Rosa, Charlotte Cavaillé, James Gibson, Sara Goodman, Henry Hale, Liesbet Hooghe, Eroll Kuhn, Gary Marks, Lucy Martin, Kathleen McNamara, Cecilia Mo, Kimberly Morgan, Santiago Olivella, Bilyana Petrova, Merlin Schaeffer, Stephanie Shady, John Sides, Dalston Ward, Ingo Rohlfing, and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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