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Home Publications Cause for concern? The impact of immigration on political trust
Cause for concern? The impact of immigration on political trust

Cause for concern? The impact of immigration on political trust

Lauren M. McLaren

20 September 2010


This paper explores the extent to which public concern about immigration affects trust in politicians and political institutions. The study uses the four rounds of the European Social Survey (2002-2009) to explore the relationship between public attitudes to immigration and public attitudes to politicians and political institutions. It controls for other possible factors affecting levels of political trust, including both characteristics of individuals that may influence attitudes, and national-level conditions such as the economic situation and the composition of the government.

The findings indicate that concern about the effects of immigration have an impact on trust in politics: if citizens’ perception of the effects of immigration is negative, they are less trusting of the institutions of the political system and of politicians. Interestingly, perceptions of immigration are shown to be very weakly related to actual levels of immigration.

The study further finds that quality of governance and the nature of integration policy influence the extent to which concerns about immigration affect political trust. The paper contains a theoretical discussion of the findings,including the possibility that immigration leads to a perceived weakening of cultural connections,with consequences for the political system.

Lauren M. McLaren is associate professor of politics and director of the Centre for the Study of European Governance at the University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations.

Immigration and political community: the impact of immigration on political trust

This paper marks the launch of a new 12-month Policy Network project which will examine in which ways, and to what extent, immigration (and immigration policy) affects people’s confidence in the political system, with the aim of developing concrete proposals that will help politicians restore political trust in relation to immigration policy.

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