Emmy Lindstam, Matthias Mader, Harald Schoen
Conceptions of National Identity and Ambivalence towards Immigration

British Journal of Political Science, 2021: 51, Heft 1, S. 93-114
ISSN: 0007-1234 (print), 1469-2112 (online)

National identities are often conceived of as factors that lend structure and stability to citizens’ political opinions on issues such as immigration. While citizens who define national membership in ethno-cultural terms are less likely to support immigration, those with a civic conception are more likely to do so. The authors propose that defining national identity along both ethno-cultural and civic lines may give rise to conflicting considerations, leading people to experience ambivalence, implying that national identities may serve less as a stabilizing force than suggested by previous research. Findings from heterogeneous choice models and a unique survey experiment show that German citizens with mixed conceptions of national identity had more variable and more malleable opinions than individuals with ideal-type conceptions during the 2015/2016 European refugee crisis. The findings point to an identity-based source of ambivalence and extend current understandings of how people form attitudes towards immigration.