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WP 3: Xenophobia vs. Tolerance

In recent years several European countries have experienced an increasing influx of immigrants. In part, this has been accompanied by rising tensions in political and public debates on immigration. Migration is perceived by some population groups as an economic and cultural threat to the host country, and occasionally even referred to as a social crisis. At the same time, both political actors and sections of the population are facing major challenges resulting from the global financial and economic crisis. Not only does government debt and rising unemployment increase the pressure on the respective political system of some countries, but also on individuals’ living conditions. 
The rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe and the increase in xenophobic attacks in Germany demonstrate that the migration issue will shape the future European political landscape and will have an impact on the social cohesion in diverse societies.

Subproject WP 3 Xenophobia vs. Tolerance deals with the central question of how contextual factors like those mentioned above shape xenophobic attitudes in various ways. We lay particular emphasis on the multiple forms of crisis-like phenomena that shape the current political discourse in Europe. In addition to this, socio-political factors such as social welfare benefits and labor market legislation are regarded as potentially important moderators for these relationships. Our Work Package investigates the conditions under which social policy measures can influence xenophobia and mitigate the effects of crises on anti-immigration sentiments.

The empirical analyses of these questions are carried out in comparative perspective focusing on European countries. Of particular interest is the question of how differences between states and societies in their attitudes to immigration can be explained by country-specific circumstances or by different social policy systems and legislation. On the one hand, we study the temporal development of the context, on the other hand, we distinguish between the economic and cultural dimensions of xenophobic attitudes. For these analyzes, we use representative data from pan-European surveys.         
Furthermore, we examine the situation in Germany in greater detail. Through a survey experiment within the GESIS panel we study to which extent the German population makes its support for asylum seekers dependent on various contextual factors, such as the rate of unemployment or the prospects of future growth.

Lead: Dr. Boris Heizmann
Nora Huth

Institute: GESIS