Do Anti-immigration Voters Care More? Documenting the Issue Importance Asymmetry of Immigration Attitudes

Alexander Kustov
Date of Publication: 
November, 2021
Source Organization: 

According to 2020 Gallup polls, more Americans said that they would prefer to see immigration increased rather than decreased; yet despite such positive public opinion, the U.S. government has failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform. In this study, Alexander Kustov examines why politicians and policymakers neglect to prioritize pro-immigration reforms even when public opinion towards immigration is positive. Kustov looks at a previously overlooked explanation for this phenomenon: that anti-immigration individuals tend to consider immigration a more important political issue than pro-immigration individuals. To assess this relationship comprehensively and empirically between personal immigration issue importance and policy preference, Kustov uses cross-national and longitudinal surveys from many immigrant-receiving contexts. Kustov finds that in comparison with pro-immigration voters, anti-immigration voters feel more strongly about the issue, while also being more likely to consider immigration a personally and nationally significant issue. He finds this phenomenon true across virtually all observed countries, survey periods, and different survey measures of immigration preferences and their significance. These results suggest that public opinion towards immigration demonstrates great “issue importance asymmetry.” Even though the issue is more contextually salient, such asymmetry of immigration attitudes systematically advantages anti-immigration causes. (Erika Hernandez for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

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Kustov, A. (2021, November). Do Anti-immigration Voters Care More? Documenting the Issue Importance Asymmetry of Immigration Attitudes. Research Gate.