Ethnic Change, Personality, and Polarization Over Immigration in the American Public


Journal Article

© 2015 The Author. This article explores the interplay between ethnic change and individual psychology in shaping mass opinion on immigration. Recent research suggests that personality traits related to uncertainty aversion structure left-right orientation in American politics, and we argue that this personality cleavage should shape citizens' reactions to ethnic change. Using national survey data and a survey experiment, our analysis reveals that ethnic change polarizes citizens by personality, as those averse to uncertainty feel heightened cultural threat from ethnic change, while those open to uncertainty feel less threatened. The association of traits related to uncertainty aversion with left-right orientation suggests that polarization over immigration is exacerbated by the interaction of citizen personality and ethnic context. While the opinion literature on immigration is replete with studies analyzing the separate effects of ethnic context and individual differences, this article contributes to the literature by analyzing the two in conjunction.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Johnston, CD; Newman, BJ; Velez, Y

Published Date

  • January 1, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 79 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 662 - 686

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5331

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-362X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/poq/nfv022

Citation Source

  • Scopus