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    Levels or changes?: Ethnic context, immigration and the UK Independence Party vote

    Kaufmann, Eric P. (2017) Levels or changes?: Ethnic context, immigration and the UK Independence Party vote. Electoral Studies 48 , pp. 57-69. ISSN 0261-3794.

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    Will the rising share of ethnic minorities in western societies spark a backlash or lead to greater acceptance of diversity? This paper examines this question through the prism of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the most successful populist right party in British history. The paper contributes to work on contextual effects by arguing that ethnic levels and changes cross-pressure white opinion and voting. It argues that high levels of established ethnic minorities reduce opposition to immigration and support for UKIP among White Britons. Conversely, more rapid ethnic changes increase opposition to immigration and support for UKIP. Longitudinal data demonstrates that these effects are not produced by self-selection. The data further illustrate that with time, diversity levels increase their threat-reducing power while the threatening effects of ethnic change fade. Results suggest that the contextual effects literature needs to routinely unpack levels from changes. This also suggests that if the pace of immigration slows, immigration attitudes should soften and populist right voting decline. Does diversity heighten or reduce white threat perceptions? This paper claims that this depends on which form of diversity we examine: levels or changes. The level of ethnic diversity, in the British case, consists of the local proportion of non-White British population. This is distinct from ethnic change: the rate of increase of the local non-White British population. This paper surmises that, for the British case, local minority levels are conducive to contact and minority changes to threat. Others, working on different cases (i.e. Newman, 2013), have tested one argument or the other, but not both together - even where they have included both level and change variables in the same model. Moreover, there is a paradox: prior ethnic change, i.e. immigration, contributes to current minority levels. How then does threat-enhancing diversity transmute into threat-reducing diversity? This work provides an answer: habituation. That is, the threatening effects of ethnic change fade over time while threat-reducing properties of minority levels increase in power with time. Therefore, in addition to testing the levels versus changes argument for Britain, this work advances and tests the habituation mechanism. A final aim of the paper is to set these findings within the context of a meta-analysis of all work undertaken between 1995 and 2016 on the impact of ethno-contextual effects on immigration attitudes and populist right voting.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2017 14:04
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:33


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