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Religious Social Identity, Religious Belief, and Anti-Immigration Sentiment


Somewhat paradoxically, numerous scholars in various disciplines have found that religion induces negative attitudes towards immigrants, while others find that it fuels feelings of compassion. We offer a framework that accounts for this discrepancy. Using two priming experiments conducted among American Catholics, Turkish Muslims, and Israeli Jews, we disentangle the role of religious social identity and religious belief, and differentiate among types of immigrants based on their ethnic and religious similarity to, or difference from, members of the host society. We find that religious social identity increases opposition to immigrants who are dissimilar to in-group members in religion or ethnicity, while religious belief engenders welcoming attitudes toward immigrants of the same religion and ethnicity, particularly among the less conservative devout. These results suggest that different elements of the religious experience exert distinct and even contrasting effects on immigration attitudes, manifested in both the citizenry's considerations of beliefs and identity and its sensitivity to cues regarding the religion of the target group.

Corresponding author
Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel (
Gizem Arikan, Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey (
Marie Courtemanche, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Thiel College, Greenville, PA, USA (
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