Attitudes toward Refugees

(With Susanne Veit)

What theories explain variation in public opinion toward asylum seekers? We implement a conjoint experiment in which a panel of German residents evaluates vignettes of asylum seekers, which randomly vary attributes that speak to deservingness, economic and cultural threat, and gender considerations of attitude formation. We find strong support for deservingness theories. Economic and cultural threat theories also receive empirical support. However, they matter only among the subset of economic refugees. By contrast, political refugees are welcomed nearly unconditionally, pointing to a threshold model of attitude formation. To test the stability of attitudes, we repeat the experiment five months later in light of a series of terrorist attacks in Germany. Results survive virtually unchanged. We also implement a second vignette experiment to show that the unconditionality fades when respondents evaluate profiles of asylum holders seeking permanent residency. We conclude by drawing attention to mode effects: Respondents are significantly less welcoming when recruited online

Link to paper

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