Cosmopolitan Immigration Attitudes in Large European Cities: Contextual or Compositional Effects?

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Rahsaan Maxwell

In: American Political Science Review 113 (2019), 2, 456-474


Europe is geographically divided on the issue of immigration. Large cities are the home of Cosmopolitan Europe, where immigration is viewed positively. Outside the large cities—and especially in the countryside—is Nationalist Europe, where immigration is a threat. This divide is well documented and much discussed, but there has been scant research on why people in large cities are more likely to have favorable opinions about immigration. Debates about geographic differences generally highlight two explanations: contextual or compositional effects. I evaluate the two with data from the European Social Survey, the Swiss Household Panel, and the German Socio-Economic Panel. Results support compositional effects and highlight the importance of (demographic and cultural) mechanisms that sort pro-immigration people into large cities. This has several implications for our understanding of societal divisions in Europe; most notably that geographic polarization is a second-order manifestation of deeper (demographic and cultural) divides.