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

  • Charles Breton (a1)

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.

Corresponding author
Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia. C425–1866 Main Mall, Vancouver BC. V6T 1Z1, email:
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
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