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The Influence of Social Desirability Pressures on Expressed Immigration Attitudes


  • Alexander L. Janus


Objective. Immigration scholars have found that the highly educated and political liberals are considerably less likely to support restrictionist immigration policies than other groups. I ask whether the influence of social desirability pressures in the survey interview is responsible for this finding. Methods. An unobtrusive questioning technique known as the list experiment is used to measure Americans' support for immigration restrictionism. The list experiment can easily be embedded in a standard telephone survey and has been used by previous investigators to study racial attitudes. Results. Restrictionist sentiments are found to be more widespread among the U.S. populace than previous studies have estimated, especially among college graduates and political liberals. Conclusion. My findings have implications for immigration scholars and social scientists who study other sensitive attitudes and behaviors. The most commonly employed strategies to reduce socially desirable responding may not be enough.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander L. Janus, 2010. "The Influence of Social Desirability Pressures on Expressed Immigration Attitudes," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(4), pages 928-946, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:socsci:v:91:y:2010:i:4:p:928-946
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00742.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Baodong Liu, 2001. "The Positive Effect of Black Density on White Crossover Voting: Reconsidering Social Interaction Theory," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 82(3), pages 602-615, September.
    2. Gilens, Martin & Sniderman, Paul M. & Kuklinski, James H., 1998. "Affirmative Action and the Politics of Realignment," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(1), pages 159-183, January.
    3. Dennis, Jack, 1988. "Political Independence in America, Part I: On Being an Independent Partisan Supporter," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(1), pages 77-109, January.
    4. Elaine B. Sharp & Mark R. Joslyn, 2008. "Culture, Segregation, and Tolerance in Urban America," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(3), pages 573-591, September.
    5. Citrin, Jack & Sears, David O. & Muste, Christopher & Wong, Cara, 2001. "Multiculturalism in American Public Opinion," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(2), pages 247-275, April.
    6. Dennis, Jack, 1988. "Political Independence in America, Part II: Towards a Theory," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(2), pages 197-219, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Adrian Chadi & Matthias Krapf, 2017. "The Protestant Fiscal Ethic: Religious Confession And Euro Skepticism In Germany," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1813-1832, October.
    2. McKenzie D. & Siegel M., 2013. "Eliciting illegal migration rates through list randomization," MERIT Working Papers 2013-023, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    3. Fahey, Éamonn & O'Brien, Doireann & Russell, Helen & McGinnity, Fran, 2019. "European survey data on attitudes to equality groups and human rights," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number SUSTAT83.
    4. Simone Schüller, 2016. "The Effects of 9/11 on Attitudes toward Immigration and the Moderating Role of Education," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 604-632, November.
    5. Chadi, Adrian, 2015. "Concerns about the Euro and happiness in Germany during times of crisis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PA), pages 126-146.
    6. Frances McGinnity & Gillian Kingston, 2017. "An Irish Welcome? Changing Irish Attitudes to Immigrants and Immigration: The Role of Recession and Immigration," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 48(3), pages 253-279.
    7. Amaral, Ernesto F. L. & Mitchell, Paige & Marquez-Velarde, Guadalupe, 2019. "Factors associated with attitudes toward U.S. immigration, 2004–2016," OSF Preprints nkry6, Center for Open Science.
    8. De Cao, Elisabetta & Lutz, Clemens, 2014. "Sensitive survey questions," Research Report 14017-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    9. McGinnity, Fran & Grotti, Raffaele & Russell, Helen & Fahey, Éamonn, 2018. "Attitudes to Diversity in Ireland," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT350.
    10. repec:dgr:rugsom:14017-eef is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Verena Dill, 2013. "Ethnic Concentration and Extreme Right-Wing Voting Behavior in West Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 565, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    12. Brownback, Andy & Novotny, Aaron, 2018. "Social desirability bias and polling errors in the 2016 presidential election," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 38-56.
    13. Robert Stojanov & Ilan Kelman & AKM Ahsan Ullah & Barbora Duží & David Procházka & Klára Kavanová Blahůtová, 2016. "Local Expert Perceptions of Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation in Bangladesh," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(12), pages 1-15, November.
    14. Bloemraad, Irene & Voss, Kim & Silva, Fabiana, 2014. "Framing the Immigrant Movement as about Rights, Family, or Economics: Which Appeals Resonate and for Whom?," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt3b32w33p, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.

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