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Explaining Individual Attitudes towards Foreigners in Switzerland
Project responsable Didier Ruedin
Gianni D'Amato
   
Team member Marco Pecoraro
   
Abstract In the past three decades, immigration has become one of the most prominent topics in election campaigns in Switzerland, systematically politicized by parties on the right. As elsewhere in Europe, there appears to be growing support for anti-immigrant policies and organizations associated with anti-immigrant sentiments. Despite a growing literature on the attitudes of the mainstream society towards foreigners and immigrants, there is very little research on Switzerland. Considering that more than a fifth of the population are foreign citizens in Switzerland, and given the electoral success of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC), this is surprising. The project is concentrated on a single research question: Which contextual and individual level factors are associated with attitudes towards foreign citizens in Switzerland? The most common and perhaps most basic explanation for attitudes towards foreigners revolves around the idea of competition over economic resources and political power. Following this approach, negative attitudes towards foreigners and immigrants are seen as a direct reaction against unwanted competition. Both economists and political scientists have refined the argument, and formulated alternative explanations, such as the role of prejudice, ideology, or cultural values (see Ceobanu and Excandell 2010 for a recent review). The proposed research will apply the various theories developed in the literature to longitudinal data. The use of longitudinal data is important for two reasons. First, many of the explanations in the literature make implicit claims about changes in time. Second, it allows controlling for unobservable individual characteristics when studying the determinants of attitudes. The proposed research will apply existing research on attitudes towards foreigners to Switzerland. Recent developments in the literature will be applied in a systematic manner. Moreover, using a rigorous and systematic approach, the project will contribute to the wider literature in a number of ways. For example, the project is innovative by using individual-level panel data from the Swiss Household Panel (SHP). This will provide new insights on how attitudes towards foreigners and immigrants change over time within individuals, filling a gap in the existing literature, where repeated cross-sectional data are used, if changes over time are considered at all. By combining insights from economic and political sciences, the project will offer new insights into the dynamics of attitudes towards foreigners by paying close attention to different explanatory theories. Innovative is that we consider the link between education and attitudes in a systematic and rigorous manner. Existing research tended to ignore the endogeneity problem when estimating attitudinal effects of the welfare mechanism. Innovative is further that we add considerations of the system and institutions. Ceobanu and Excandell (2010) highlighted the lack of such considerations in existing studies as one of the most significant gap in the literature.
   
Keywords immigration, panel data, individual attitudes, prejudice, labour market competition
   
Type of project Fundamental research project
Research area Economie politique
Method of financing FNS - Encouragement de projets (Div. I-III)
Status Completed
Start of project 1-11-2011
End of project 30-6-2013
Overall budget 53'801.00
Additional info http://p3.snf.ch/projects-138620#
Contact Didier Ruedin