The Hidden American Immigration Consensus

Jens Hainmueller and Daniel J. Hopkins
Date of Publication: 
August, 2012
Source Organization: 

A large literature has examined the factors that influence immigration attitudes. Yet prior tests have considered only a few immigrant attributes at a time limiting their capacity to test several hypotheses simultaneously.

This paper, "The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes Toward Immigrants," uses conjoint analysis to test the influence of nine randomized immigrant attributes in generating support for admission. Drawing on a two-wave, population-based panel survey, it demonstrates that Americans view educated immigrants in high-status jobs favorably while they view those who lack plans to work, entered without authorization, come from Iraq or do not speak English unfavorably. The results are consistent with norms-based and sociotropic explanations of immigration attitudes.

Remarkably, Americans' preferences vary little with their education, partisanship, labor market position, ethnocentrism or other attributes. Beneath partisan divisions over immigration lies a consensus about which immigrants to admit, a fact which points to limits in both theories emphasizing economic threats and those emphasizing cultural threats.

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Hainmueller, J. and Hopkins, D. J. (2012). "The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes Toward Immigrants." MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-22. Available at SSRN: