This article assesses the influence of material interests and cultural identities on European opinion about immigration. Analysis of respondents in twenty countries sampled in the 2002–03 European Social Survey demonstrates that they are unenthusiastic about high levels of immigration and typically overestimate the actual number of immigrants living in their country. At the individual level, cultural and national identity, economic interests and the level of information about immigration are all important predictors of attitudes. ‘Symbolic’ predispositions, such as preferences for cultural unity, have a stronger statistical effect than economic dissatisfaction. Variation across countries in both the level and the predictors of opposition to immigration are mostly unrelated to contextual factors cited in previous research, notably the amount of immigration into a country and the overall state of its economy. The ramifications of these findings for policy makers are discussed in the context of current debates about immigration and European integration.
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