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Public attitudes towards immigration in Canada : evolution and determinants (Okanagan) Mohamadian, Mehdi


We use Canadian Election Studies surveys from 1988 to 2019 to investigate the evolution and determinants of attitudes towards immigration. We find that Canadians' opinions about immigration became more positive in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the proportion of Canadians supporting restriction on immigration increased in the 2010s. We use individual level, provincial level and local level variables to understand factors that shape public attitudes towards immigration in Canada. We find that unemployed, low-income, and less-educated Canadians as well as those who believe that their financial situation or Canada's economy has deteriorated in the previous year are more strongly against immigration. Our results also point to the importance of ethnic and immigration backgrounds. We find that indigenous Canadians followed by white Canadian-borns and visible minority Canadian-borns hold more negative attitudes towards immigration. In contrast, recent immigrants who have been in Canada for less than 10 years are the most supportive of immigration regardless of their country of origin. Our results suggest however that the country of origin determines attitudes of more established immigrants. Our results also illustrate a growing political divide in attitudes towards immigration. More specifically, while the Liberal and NDP supporters are the most supportive, the Conservatives are the least supportive of immigration in Canada. Importantly, this political polarization started to emerge in 2006 and has been growing ever since. Our relative importance analysis also suggests that among different factors studied, political party identification is the most important in explaining differences among individuals in attitudes towards immigration in Canada. As for the provincial-level factors, Canadians respond negatively to increases in immigration. However, we find that an increase in unemployment rate has a weak effect on attitudes towards immigration. We also explore the role that news media consumption may play in shaping attitudes toward immigration. We find that Canadians who spend more time watching, reading, or listening to the news express a more positive opinion towards immigration. Finally, we examine the impact of contact with visible minorities on attitudes towards immigration. Our results suggest that while direct contact in the form of friendship increases the propensity of supporting immigration among white Canadians, the proportion of visible minorities at the local level has a non-linear impact on attitudes towards immigration.

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