The Polarizing Effect of Anti-immigrant Violence on Radical Right Sympathies

16.11.2021 - 15:30 to 17:00
Location : 
Online via Zoom
Type of Event : 
AB A-Kolloquium
Maureen Eger, Ph.D.
Lecturer affiliation: 
Umeå University

The Zoom link for participation can be requested at colloquia-a [at]

Co-author: Susan Olzak (Stanford University)

While many Western European countries have seen the rise of radical right parties championing anti-immigrant platforms, there is little evidence that anti-immigrant sentiment among the public has dramatically increased during this same period of time. We seek to help resolve this puzzle by incorporating a contextual factor that is missing from studies of anti-immigrant sentiment and radical right support: the volume of anti-immigrant events. Applying a social movement perspective, we contend that collective violence against immigrants raises the salience of the immigrant/native boundary, which activates attitudes towards immigrants by making them more cognitively accessible and politically relevant. We then argue that collective violence amplifies the effect of both positive and negative attitudes toward immigrants on radical right sympathies, thereby polarizing the electorate. Analyses of ESS and ARVIG data from Germany (2014-2019) reveal that the relationship between collective violence and attitudes towards immigrants differs before and after the so-called migration crisis. Our results also show a powerful interaction effect between the valence of attitudes toward immigrants and exposure to collective violence on radical right sympathies. We conclude that when violence against immigrants resonates with public opinion on immigrants, it opens new political opportunities for radical right parties. However, violence against immigrants may also mobilize support for immigrants and a backlash against these parties.