PRESS Research Workshop: When do nationalist voters support policies helping the world? Sociotropic politics reconsidered
Department:Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance
Audience:Restricted to Princeton University
PRESS Research Workshops are co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics (CSDP), the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance
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Resistance to immigration and other globally beneficial policies is often thought to be driven by ethnic prejudice or selfish interests. I argue to the contrary that voters may also be motivated to restrict immigration by genuine altruism which is, however, often limited to their compatriots. Specifically, people oppose (support) immigration when they perceive it as hurting (helping) their compatriots. I thus hypothesize that most voters—and especially “nationalists”—can become pro-immigration when a policy is perceived to help their compatriots. Based on the original analysis of observational data, I propose a conjoint survey experiment to test this hypothesis against existing theories by estimating the effect of perceived national interest—as opposed to the effects of competing concerns—on policy choice with regard to immigration and other issues. Preliminary results suggest that voters' immigration preferences are highly elastic to their interests but are not responsive to the number of immigrants or their sending region. Accordingly, most voters are anti-immigration only when they believe it is bad for their compatriots and they can even support increased immigration from non-European countries when their perceived national interests are considered. The proposed extension of the study tests whether the relationship between interests and preferences generalizes to other issues and voting behavior.