Economic Vulnerability, Cultural Decline, and Nativism: Contingent and Indirect Effects
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2019 by the Southwestern Social Science Association Objective: Nativism, or anti-immigrant preferences, is increasingly evident within democratic mass publics. In this article, we explore whether economic concerns, perceptions of social decline, or some combination of the two shape these attitudes. Method: Our data are comprised of more than 8,000 survey respondents from nine Western, industrial democracies (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United States). Using mediation analysis, we test for the extent to which economic anxiety and perceptions of cultural decline exert direct and indirect effects on nativism. Results: On balance, the effect of economic anxietyconcern regarding job loss and negative economic assessmentson nativism is mostly indirect, affecting nativism by influencing perceptions of cultural decline. Conclusion: Given the strong association between perceptions of social decline and nativism, it appears as though anti-immigrant sentiments draw from cultural rather than economic concerns. The story, however, does not end there. Perceptions of societal decline are strongly influenced by economic anxiety.