Are we in this together? Changes in anti-immigrant sentiments during the COVID-19 pandemic

Quita Muis*, Tim Reeskens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is posing a threat to people all across the globe. According to traditional literature, threat perceptions induce anti-immigrant sentiments, as ingroup identity and self-interest are strengthened at the expense of the outgroup. In this study, we investigate whether the COVID-19 pandemic indeed increases anti-immigrant sentiments, or that this type of threat elicits other or no group related responses. We also look at whether such responses are expressed more strongly among specific subgroups in Dutch society. To do so, we use unique longitudinal panel data based on the European Values Study 2017, with a repeated measure in May 2020, during the national 'intelligent lockdown' in the Netherlands. Based on structural equation modeling, we demonstrate that anti-immigrant sentiments have not increased due to (perceived threat of) the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, negative opinions towards immigrants decreased between 2017 and 2020 in the Netherlands, for which we provide alternative explanations. Although some subgroups do experience more threat than others due to the coronavirus, such as women, first generation immigrants, and the elderly, this does not lead to more negative feelings towards outgroups. Whether this is due to the fact that individuals feel threatened by everyone, regardless of group membership, should be explored in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-216
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Volume86
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • anti-immigrant sentiments
  • threat perceptions
  • in- and outgroups
  • panel data

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