Towards a nuanced understanding of anti-immigration sentiment in the welfare state – a program specific analysis of welfare preferences

NRW School of Governance, University of Duisburg-Essen, German Economic Institute, Cologne, Germany
Diermeier, Matthias;
German Economic Institute, Cologne, NW, Germany
Niehues, Judith

The literature on immigration and the welfare state describes a trade-off between immigration and welfare support. We argue for a more nuanced view of welfare chauvinism that accounts for different motivational channels, specific welfare programs and particular population subgroups. First, we identify two separate characteristics of hostility towards immigrants that trigger welfare chauvinism: affective anti-migration sentiment that combines economic and cultural motives; and a ‘putative rational anti-migration sentiment’ that is driven by the fear that immigration could overburden the welfare state although immigrants themselves are not disliked or even appreciated. Second, running a program-specific analysis, we find that affective and ‘putative rational’ opposition to migration lower redistributive preferences towards the unemployed. On the contrary, affective anti-immigration sentiment even increases welfare affinity towards the elderly. We interpret this finding not as preferences for or against a specific welfare program but as implicit sympathy or antipathy for its recipients. Third, investigating the role of Populist Radical Right Parties (PRRPs) as the main source of welfare chauvinism, we find that PRRP supporters strongly prefer more redistribution towards a perceived native in-group: the elderly.


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