Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition


In ethnic and racial terms, America is growing rapidly more diverse. Yet attempts to extend racial threat hypotheses to today's immigrants have generated inconsistent results. This article develops the politicized places hypothesis, an alternative that focuses on how national and local conditions interact to construe immigrants as threatening. Hostile political reactions to neighboring immigrants are most likely when communities undergo sudden influxes of immigrants and when salient national rhetoric reinforces the threat. Data from several sources, including twelve geocoded surveys from 1992 to 2009, provide consistent support for this approach. Time-series cross-sectional and panel data allow the analysis to exploit exogenous shifts in salient national issues such as the September 11 attacks, reducing the problem of residential self-selection and other threats to validity. The article also tests the hypothesis using new data on local anti-immigrant policies. By highlighting the interaction of local and national conditions, the politicized places hypothesis can explain both individual attitudes and local political outcomes.

Corresponding author
Daniel J. Hopkins is Assistant Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University, ICC 674, 37th and O Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20057 (
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Christopher Achen . 2005. “Let's Put Garbage-Can Regressions and Probits Where They Belong.” Conflict Management and Peace Research 22: 327–39.

Eliot Barkan . 2003. “Return of the Nativists? California Public Opinion and Immigration in the 1980s and 1990s.” Social Science History 27 (2): 229–83.

Timothy Bledsoe , Susan Welch , Lee Sigelman . 1995. “Residential Context and Racial Solidarity among African Americans.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (2): 434–58.

Ted Brader , Nicholas Valentino , Elizabeth Suhay . 2008. “Is It Immigration or the Immigrants? The Emotional Influence of Groups on Public Opinion and Political Action.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (4): 959–78.

Regina P. Branton , Bradford S. Jones . 2005. “Re-examining Racial Attitudes: The Conditional Relationship Between Diversity and Socioeconomic Environment.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (2): 359–72.

Andrea L. Campbell , Cara Wong , Jack Citrin . 2006. “‘Racial Threat,’ Partisan Climate, and Direct Democracy: Contextual Effects in Three California Initiatives.” Political Behavior 28: 129–50.

Ted Chiricos , Michael Hogan , Marc Gertz . 1997. “Racial Composition of the Neighborhood and Fear of Crime.” Criminology 35: 107–29.

Dennis Chong , James N. Druckman . 2007. “A Theory of Framing and Opinion Formation.” Journal of Communication 57: 99118.

Jack Citrin , Donald P. Green , Christopher Muste , Cara Wong . 1997. “Public Opinion Toward Immigration Reform: The Role of Economic Motivations.” Journal of Politics 59 (3): 858–81.

Jack Citrin , Beth Reingold , Donald P. Green . 1990. “American Identity and the Politics of Ethnic Change.” Journal of Politics 52 (4): 1124–53.

Rajeev H. Dehejia , Sadek Wahba . 1999. “Causal Effects in Nonexperimental Studies: Re-Evaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 94 (448, December): 1053–62.

Jeffrey C. Dixon , Michael S. Rosenbaum . 2004. “Nice to Know You? Testing Contact, Cultural, and Group Threat Theories of Anti-Black and Anti-Hispanic Stereotypes.” Social Science Quarterly 85 (2): 257–80.

Christian Dustmann , Ian Preston . 2001. “Attitudes to Ethnic Minorities, Ethnic Context and Location Decisions.” Economic Journal 111 (April): 353–73.

Mary J. Fischer 2003. “The Relative Importance of Income and Race in Determining Residential Outcomes in US Urban Areas, 1970–2000.” Urban Affairs Review 38 (5): 669.

Cybelle Fox . 2004. “The Color of Welfare? How Whites' Attitudes Towards Latinos Influence Support for Welfare.” American Journal of Sociology 110 (3): 580625.

Claudine Gay . 2006. “Seeing Difference: The Effect of Economic Disparity on Black Attitudes Toward Latinos.” American Journal of Political Science 50: 982–97.

Martin Gilens . 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Anti-poverty Policy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

James M. Glaser 1994. “Back to the Black Belt: Racial Environment and White Racial Attitudes in the South.” Journal of Politics 56 (1): 2141.

Donald P. Green , Dara Z. Strolovitch , Janelle S. Wong . 1998. “Defended Neighborhoods, Integration, and Racially Motivated Crime.” American Journal of Sociology 104 (2): 372403.

Gordon H. Hanson , Kenneth Scheve , Matthew J. Slaughter . 2007. “Public Finance and Individual Preferences over Globalization Strategies.” Economics and Politics 19 (1): 133.

M.V. Hood , Irwin L. Morris . 1998. “Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor. . .But Make Sure They Have a Green Card: The Effects of Documented and Undocumented Migrant Context on Anglo Opinion Toward Immigration.” Political Behavior 20 (1): 115.

Daniel J. Hopkins 2009. “The Diversity Discount: When Increasing Ethnic and Racial Diversity Prevents Tax Increases.” Journal of Politics 71 (01): 160–77.

Daniel Kahneman , Amos Tversky . 1979. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk.” Econometrica 47 (2): 263–92.

Donald R. Kinder 1998. “Communication and Opinion.” Annual Review of Political Science 1: 167–97.

Gary King , Langche Zeng . 2002. “Estimating Risk and Rate Levels, Ratios and Differences in Case-Control Studies.” Statistics in Medicine 21: 1409–27.

Paul G. Lewis , S. Karthick Ramakrishnan . 2007. “Police Practices in Immigrant-Destination Cities.” Urban Affairs Review 42 (6): 874900.

Anna Maria Mayda . 2006. “Who Is against Immigrants? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes towards Immigrants.” Review of Economics and Statistics 88 (3): 510–30.

Eileen Diaz McConnell . 2008. “The Destinations of Contemporary Mexican Immigrants.” International Migration Review 42 (4): 767802.

Diana C. Mutz 1994. “Contextualizing Personal Experience: The Role of Mass Media.” Journal of Politics 56 (3): 689714.

J. Eric Oliver , Tali Mendelberg . 2000. “Reconsidering the Environmental Determinants of White Racial Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 44 (3): 574–89.

J. Eric Oliver , Janelle Wong . 2003. “Intergroup Prejudice in Multiethnic Settings.” American Journal of Political Science 47 (4): 567–82.

Pamela Paxton . 2006. “What's to Fear from Immigrants? Creating an Assimilationist Threat Scale.” Political Psychology 27 (4): 549–68.

Thomas F. Pettigrew 1998. “Intergroup Contact Theory.” Annual Review of Psychology 49: 6585.

Robert D. Putnam 2007. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30 (2): 137–74.

Anil Rupasingha , Stephan J. Goetz , David Freshwater . 2005. “The Production of Social Capital in U.S. Counties.” Journal of Socio-Economics 35 (1): 83101.

Joseph L. Schafer 1997. Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. London: Chapman & Hall.

Robert Schall . 1991. “Estimation in Generalized Linear Models with Random Effects.Biometrika 78: 719–27.

Kenneth Scheve , Matthew Slaughter . 2001. “Labor Market Competition and Individual Preferences over Immigration Policy.” Review of Economics and Statistics 83 (1, February): 133–45.

Deborah J. Schildkraut 2001. “Official-English and the States: Influences on Declaring English the Official Language in the United States.” Political Research Quarterly 54 (2): 445–57.

David O. Sears , Victoria Savalei . 2006. “The Political Color Line in America: Many ‘Peoples of Color’ or Black Exceptionalism?Political Psychology 27 (6): 895924.

Robert M. Stein , Stephanie Shirley Post , Allison Rinden . 2000. “Reconciling Context and Contact Effects on Racial Attitudes.” Political Research Quarterly 53 (2): 285303.

Marylee C. Taylor 1998. “How White Attitudes Vary with the Racial Composition of Local Populations: Numbers Count.” American Sociological Review 63: 512–35.

Stephen D. Voss 1996. “Beyond Racial Threat: Failure of an Old Hypothesis in the New South.” Journal of Politics 58 (4): 1156–70.

Cara J. Wong 2007. ““Little” and “Big” Pictures in Our Heads: Race, Local Context, and Innumeracy about Racial Groups in the United States.” Public Opinion Quarterly 71 (3): 392.

Jeffrey M. Wooldridge 2003. “Cluster-Sample Methods in Applied Econometrics.” American Economic Review 93 (2): 133–38.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 49
Total number of PDF views: 460 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1438 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.