Explaining Attitudes toward Immigrants in the United States: Context, Class and Ideology
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This paper explores the influence of social context, class, and ideology on attitudes toward immigrants in the US. Using the conceptual frames of heterophobia and resource competition, we hypothesize that between 1996 and 2014 attitudes toward immigrants would become increasingly negative because of changes in the social context, in particular the growth in the number and diversity of immigrants. We also hypothesize that people in more precarious labor market positions, without a college education, and with a conservative religious ideology will have more negative attitudes toward immigrants. Using the General Social Survey at three points in time (1996, 2004, and 2014), we find mixed support for our hypotheses. Attitudes toward immigrants became more positive in the overall sample, but more negative for religious fundamentalists. Religious ideology and education were better predictors of attitudes toward immigrants than employment status and self-identified class. In general, the data show more support for the heterophobia explanation for negative attitudes than the resource competition explanation.
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