Marc Helbling, Felix Jäger, Rahsaan Maxwell, Richard Traunmüller
Broad and Detailed Agreement: Public Preferences for German Immigration Policy

International Migration Review, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 0197-9183 (print), 1747-7379 (online)

Immigration policy is often considered one of the most divisive issues in Western Europe and North America. We explore whether that debate has been oversimplified. We start from the position that immigration is a complex issue comprising many specific policy choices. We then investigate whether preferences are consistently open or closed across a range of immigration policy criteria. We analyze an original survey with a nationally representative sample of Germans. Our results suggest that preferences are not consistently open or closed on immigration, integration, and naturalization regulations. Overall, the German public would prefer to be open on some aspects of immigration policy and closed on others. In addition, population subsets who are either “pro-” or “anti-” immigration in general have the same preferences for whether to be open or closed on specific immigration policies. Our findings promote a more detailed approach to studying immigration preferences, which adds nuance to the idea of immigration as a grand societal conflict. In doing so, we highlight how future studies can refine expectations about when policy preferences are more permissive or restrictive.