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The Cultural Divide in Europe: Migration, Multiculturalism, and Political Trust

  • Lauren M. McLaren (a1)


One of the defining features of modern states is their incorporation of notions of political and social community based on shared language, history, and myths. However, large numbers of citizens in modern states have come to believe their national communities are under threat from several modern forces, including immigration. Using the European Social Survey (2002–9), this article explores the extent to which perceived threats posed by large-scale immigration undermine national political communities by reducing trust in national politicians and political institutions. The findings indicate that even after controlling for other predictors of trust in the political system, concerns about the effect of immigration on the national community have an impact on trust in politics. Moreover, having a lengthy postwar history with mass immigration mediates this effect, while the potentially mobilizing effects of far-right parties on the relationship between concern about immigration and political distrust are somewhat limited.



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* This research is partly funded by British Academy Research Development Award 52926. Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the annual conference of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties subgroup of the Political Studies Association, Manchester, UK, September 12–14, 2008, the European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ercomer), University of Utrecht, May 4, 2009, the annual conference of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 1–4, 2010, the Policy Network seminar, “Immigration and Political Trust,” London, September 21, 2010, and the Public Opinion, Media and the Politics of Migration Seminar Series at the Centre on Migration—Policy and Society, Oxford University, February 3, 2011. The author wishes to thank various conference and seminar participants, particularly David Art, Mark Franklin, Marc Hooghe, Laura Morales, Natalia Letki, Catherine de Vries, Alison Park, Geoff Evans, Tom van der Meer, and Sergi Pardos-Prado, to name a few, for helpful comments on this research. The author also thanks Chris Anderson, Stefan Wolff, and Phil Cowley for comments on the project as a whole, Paul Heywood for providing very helpful comments on the project as a whole and on this article in particular, and Elena Jurado and Policy Network for organizing the policy-oriented seminar series, “Immigration and Political Trust” (see, around the themes of this research. Finally, the author thanks three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments, as well as Zeynep Ozkurt for assistance with data collection. Any errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

The Cultural Divide in Europe: Migration, Multiculturalism, and Political Trust

  • Lauren M. McLaren (a1)


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