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The Impact of Economic and Cultural Cues on Support for Immigration in Canada and the United States

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2012

Allison Harell*
Université du Québec à Montréal
Stuart Soroka*
McGill University
Shanto Iyengar*
Stanford University
Nicholas Valentino*
University of Michigan
Allison Harell, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8,
Stuart Soroka, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke St. West, Montréal, QC H3A 2T7,
Shanto Iyengar, Stanford, CA 94305,
Nicholas Valentino, University of Michigan, 5700 Haven Hall, 505 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045,


Abstract. Past research suggests that citizens' attitudes toward immigration are driven by perceptions of immigrants' (a) economic status and (b) ethnicity. In this study, we use an online survey conducted with a representative sample of Canadians to test to what extent economic and cultural cues influence support for individual immigrants. In particular, by drawing on a parallel US survey, we explore whether Canadians' relatively unique (positive) attitudes toward immigration make them more immune to economic and cultural threat manipulations than their American counterparts. The analysis is based on an experimental design embedded in a series of immigrant vignettes that vary the ethnoracial background and social status of an individual applying for immigration. We examine overall support for immigration, as well as the extent to which both ethnic and economic status cues affect support for individual immigrants. We also explore variance within Canada, specifically, in Quebec versus the rest of the country. Results offer new and unique information on the structure of attitudes on diversity and immigration in Canada. Most importantly, they suggest the relative importance of economic cues in support for immigration in both countries.

Résumé. Divers travaux de recherche ont suggéré que les attitudes des citoyens au sujet de l'immigration sont influencées par leur perception (a) du statut économique et (b) de l'ethnie des immigrants. Afin de tenter de savoir jusqu'à quel point les informations socioéconomiques et culturelles ont effectivement un impact sur le soutien des citoyens envers les immigrants, la présente étude fait usage d'un sondage mené en ligne avec un échantillon représentatif de la population canadienne. En nous appuyant sur un sondage américain similaire, nous cherchons plus précisément à savoir si l'attitude (positive) relativement unique des Canadiens vis-à-vis de l'immigration les rend moins susceptibles d'être manipulés par l'évocation de menaces économiques et culturelles que leurs voisins américains. Notre analyse se fonde sur une expérience utilisant une série de vignettes qui modifient les caractéristiques ethnoraciales ainsi que le statut social d'un individu procédant à une demande d'immigration. Nous examinons non seulement le soutien pour l'immigration en général, mais aussi la mesure dans laquelle les informations relatives à l'ethnie et au statut économique d'un immigrant affectent le soutien que les citoyens lui offrent. Nous étudions aussi la variance à l'intérieur du Canada, plus spécifiquement entre le Québec et le reste du pays. Les résultats ainsi obtenus fournissent de l'information nouvelle et unique ayant trait à la structure des attitudes par rapport à la diversité et l'immigration au Canada. De surcroît, ces résultats suggèrent le rôle relativement important que jouent les informations d'ordre socioéconomique dans le soutien de l'immigration tant aux États-Unis qu'au Canada.

Symposium: Immigration, Multiculturalism, and Identity Politics in Canada and the United States
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2012

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