Please join us for a colloquium being given by Professor René Flores from the University of Chicago.
The Attitudinal Impact of Perceived Immigrant Composition
René D. Flores and Ariel Azar
Abstract: What factors animate public views of immigrants? To tackle this question, researchers commonly elicit natives’ opinions in surveys. Yet, survey questions often refer to “immigrants” as if they were a single, homogenous group. This makes it hard to interpret respondents’ answers because post-1965 immigrants are highly diverse and we have little information about how natives actually perceive immigrants. To fill this gap, we assess natives’ perceptions of immigrants and examine these perceptions’ attitudinal impacts. We ask a nationally representative survey of 1,500 non-Hispanic Whites to identify the traits that most immigrants in the U.S. possess including national origin, class, gender, and legal status, among others. We analyze their responses using Latent Class Analysis and uncover several different multi-dimensional immigrant archetypes, which individuals have in mind when responding to immigration questions. These archetypes are prisms through which individuals look at the world. As such, they color Whites’ views of key social issues. They are stronger predictors of immigration attitudes than most independent variables used in extant research. Our findings identify perceived immigrant composition (PIC) as a deeply subjective, but highly consequential factor that shapes immigration attitudes. They also challenge the notion of a single, blanket effect of diversity. Whites recognize and react differently to different kinds of immigrants.