Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-vpsfw Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-18T21:28:34.175Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Making National Identity Salient: Impact on Attitudes toward Immigration and Multiculturalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2015

Charles Breton*
University of British Columbia
Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia. C425–1866 Main Mall, Vancouver BC. V6T 1Z1, email:


Does national identity necessarily have exclusionary effects when it comes to immigration attitudes or is it possible that some national identities act as inclusive forces? While research in Europe and in the US points to the former, one of the long-standing explanations for Canada's success with immigration has been the central place played by immigration and multiculturalism in its national identity. Using the Canadian case, this research tests the possibility that some national identities might represent an inclusive force. It does so through a nationally representative survey experiment (N = 1500) where respondents' national identity was primed before answering questions on immigration and multiculturalism. The analysis shows that contrary to previous results obtained in the Netherlands, priming Canadian identity does not increase anti-immigration attitudes. A new prime designed to isolate the effect of national identity even decreased these exclusionary attitudes.


Est-ce que l'identité nationale influence toujours négativement l'opinion publique sur les questions d'immigration ou est-il possible que certaines identités nationales agissent comme forces inclusives? Alors que les recherches en Europe et aux États-Unis semblent indiquer un effet négatif, une des hypothèses souvent proposées pour expliquer les succès du Canada en matière d'immigration est celle voulant que l'identité nationale canadienne soit en partie construite autour de l'immigration et du multiculturalisme. En utilisant le cas canadien, cette recherche teste donc, à travers un sondage expérimental effectué auprès d'un échantillon représentatif de la population canadienne anglaise (N = 1500), la possibilité que certaines identités nationales représentent une force inclusive. L'identité nationale des répondants a ainsi été rendue saillante avant qu'ils répondent à une série de questions sur l'immigration et le multiculturalisme. L'analyse démontre que contrairement aux résultats obtenus dans le passé aux Pays-Bas (Sniderman et al. 2004), rendre l'identité nationale canadienne saillante ne provoque pas une augmentation des opinions contre l'immigration. Une nouvelle méthode utilisée pour isoler l'effet de l'identité nationale a même diminué cette opposition dans certaines circonstances.

Immigration and Identity Politics in Canada
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abdelal, Rawi, Herrera, Yoshiko M, Johnston, Alastair Iain and McDermott, Rose. 2006. “ Identity as a Variable.” Perspectives on Politics 4 (4): 695711.Google Scholar
Adams, Michael. 2007. Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism. Toronto: Viking.Google Scholar
Anderson, Benedict. 2006 [1983]. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
Banting, Keith and Kymlicka, Will. 2006. Multiculturalism and the Welfare State: Recognition and Redistribution in Contemporary Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Berry, John W. and Kalin, Rudolf. 1995. “Multicultural and Ethnic Attitudes in Canada: An Overview of the 1991 National Survey.” Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science 27 (3): 301–20.Google Scholar
Bilodeau, Antoine, White, Stephen and Nevitte, Neil. 2010. “The Development of Dual Loyalties: Immigrants' Integration to Canadian Regional Dynamics.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 43 (3): 515–44.Google Scholar
Bloemraad, Irene. 2006. Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Brader, Ted, Valentino, Nicholas A. and Suhay, Elizabeth. 2008. “What Triggers Public Opposition to Immigration? Anxiety, Group Cues, and Immigration Threat.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (4): 959–78.Google Scholar
Brewer, Marilynn B. (2001). “Ingroup Identification and Intergroup Conflict: When Does Ingroup Love Become Outgroup Hate?” In Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction, ed. Ashmore, Richard D., Jussim, Lee and Wilder, David. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Citrin, Jack, Wong, Cara and Duff, Brian. 2001. “The Meaning of American National Identity: Pattern of Ethnic Conflict and Consensus.” In Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction, ed. Ashmore, Richard D., Jussim, Lee and Wilder, David. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Citrin, Jack and Wright, Matthew. 2011. “Saved by the Stars and Stripes? Images of Protest, Salience of Threat, and Immigration Attitudes.” American Politics Research 39 (2): 323–43.Google Scholar
Citrin, Jack, Johnston, Richard and Wright, Matthew. 2012. “Do Patriotism and Multiculturalism Collide? Competing Perspective from Canada and the US.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 45 (3): 531–52.Google Scholar
Coenders, Marcel, Lubbers, Marcel, Scheepers, Peer and Verkuyten, Maykel. 2008. “More than Two Decades of Changing Ethnic Attitudes in the Netherlands.” Journal of Social Issues 64 (2): 269–85.Google Scholar
Cohen, Jacob. 1988. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd ed. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Crepaz, Markus M.L. 2008. Trust Beyond Borders: Immigration, the Welfare State, and Identity in Modern Societies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
de Figueiredo, Rui J.P. and Elkins, Zachary. 2003. “Are Patriots Bigots? An Inquiry into the Vices of In-Group Pride.” American Journal of Political Science 47 (1): 171–88.Google Scholar
Dunning, Thad. 2010. “Design-Based Inference: Beyond the Pitfalls of Regression Analysis?” In Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards, ed. Collier, David and Brady, Henry. 2nd ed. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Esses, Victoria M., Wagner, Ulrich, Wolf, Carina, Preiser, Matthias and Wilbur, Christopher J.. 2006. “Perceptions of National Identity and Attitudes Toward Immigrants and Immigration in Canada and Germany.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 30: 653–69.Google Scholar
Freedman, David. 2008. “On Regression Adjustments in Experimental Data.” Advances in Applied Mathematics 40: 180–93.Google Scholar
Johnston, Richard, Banting, Keith, Kymlicka, Will and Soroka, Stuart. 2010. “National Identity and Support for the Welfare State.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 43 (2): 349–77.Google Scholar
Gaertner, Samuel L. and Dovidio, John F.. 2000. Reducing Intergroup Bias: The Common Ingroup Identity Model. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
Green, Donald P. 2009. “Regression Adjustments to Experimental Data: Do David Freedman's Concerns Apply to Political Science?” Working paper. Department of Political Science, Yale University.Google Scholar
Guimond, Serge, De Oliveira, Pierre, Kteily, Nour, Lalonde, Richard N., Pratto, Felicia, Sidanius, Jim, Crisp, Richard J., Kamiejski, Rodolphe, Kuepper, Beate, Levin, Shana, Tougas, Francine and Zick, Andreas. 2013. “Diversity Policy, Social Dominance, and Intergroup Relations: Predicting Prejudice in Changing Social and Political Contexts.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 104 (6): 941–58Google Scholar
Hainmueller, Jens and Hopkins, Daniel J.. 2012. “The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes toward Immigrants.” Research paper no. 2012-22. MIT Political Science Department.Google Scholar
Harell, Allison, Soroka, Stuart, Iyengar, Shanto and Valentino, Nicholas. 2012. “The Impact of Economic and Cultural Cues on Support for Immigration in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 45 (3): 499530.Google Scholar
Huddy, Leonie. 2001. “From Social to Political Identity: A Critical Examination of Social Identity Theory.” Political Psychology 22 (1): 127–56.Google Scholar
Huddy, Leonie and Khatib, Nadia. 2007. “American Patriotism, National Identity, and Political Involvement.” American Journal of Political Science 51: 6377.Google Scholar
Joppke, Christian. 2004. “The retreat of multiculturalism in the liberal state: theory and policy.” British Journal of Sociology 55 (2): 237–57.Google Scholar
Kymlicka, Will. 1995. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Kymlicka, Will. 2003. “Being Canadian.” Government and Opposition 38 (3): 357–85Google Scholar
Kymlicka, Will. 2008. “Marketing Canadian Pluralism in the International Arena.” In The Comparative Turn in Canadian Political Science, ed. White, Linda, Simeon, Richard, Vipond, Robert and Wallner, Jennifer. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Parkin, Andrew and Mendelsohn, Matthew. 2003. “A New Canada: An Identity Shaped by Diversity.” Paper 11. Ottawa: Centre for Research and Information on Canada.Google Scholar
Pehrson, Samuel, Vignoles, Vivian L. and Brown, Rupert. 2009. “National Identification and Anti-Immigrant Prejudice: Individual and Contextual Effects of National Definitions.” Social Psychology Quarterly 72 (1): 2438.Google Scholar
Schildkraut, Deborah J. 2011. Americanism in the Twenty-First Century: Public Opinion in the Age of Immigration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M., Hagendoorn, Louk and Prior, Markus. 2004. “Predisposing Factors and Situational Triggers: Exclusionary Reactions to Immigrant Minorities.” American Political Science Review 98 (1): 3549.Google Scholar
Sniderman, Paul M. and Hagendoorn, Louk. 2007. When Ways of Life Collide: Multiculturalism and Its Discontent in the Netherlands. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Tajfel, Henri. 1982. Social Identity and Intergroup Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Tajfel, Henri and Turner, John C.. 1986. “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior.” In Psychology of Intergroup Relations, ed. Worchel, Stephen and Austin, William G.. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Google Scholar
Taylor, Charles. 1994. Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. 2009. Who Counts as an American? The Boudaries of National Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press.Google Scholar
Transue, John E. 2007. “Identity Salience, Identity Acceptance, and Racial Policy Attitudes: American National Identity as a Uniting Force.” American Journal of Political Science 51(1): 7891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van de Vijver, Fons Jr., Breugelmans, Seger M and Schalk-Soekar, Saskia R.G.. 2008. “Multiculturalism: Construct validity and stabilityInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations 32 (2): 93104.Google Scholar
Wong, Cara. 2010. Boundaries of Obligation in American Politics: Geographic, National and Racial Communities. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wright, Matthew. 2011. “Diversity and the Imagined Community: Immigrant Diversity and Conceptions of National Identity.” Political Psychology 32 (5): 837–62.Google Scholar