Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants’ Political Accession

Guy Grossman | Stephanie Zonszein

In a context of nativism and poor representation of immigrant-origin ethnic minorities, what is the reaction of the host society when immigrants succeed at integration in political institutions? Building on threat theory—which links minorities’ political power to hostility against minoritized groups—we argue that when they win political office, immigrants pose a threat to natives’ dominant position. This in turn triggers a hostile reaction from a violent-prone fringe, the mass public and the elites. We test these dynamics across the last four UK general elections, using hate crime police records, public opinion data, and text data from over 500,000 news articles from 350 national and local newspapers. We identify the public’s hostile reactions with a regression discontinuity design that leverages close election results between minority-immigrant and dominant group candidates. Our findings suggest a public backlash against ethnic minority immigrants’ integration into majority settings.