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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How do citizens develop perceptions of job competition from immigrants? : economic interests and immigration attitudes in Canada Straughan, Robert William


The incumbent Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has set ambitious targets for the number of immigrants to be granted permanent residency annually. At the same time, there are no other major Canadian political parties with anti-immigration platforms. Despite this elite consensus on the necessity of economic immigration, the opinions of ordinary Canadian citizens toward immigrants, and in particular, whether Canadians view immigrants as potential competitors for jobs, have not been fully understood. Drawing upon a representative web-based survey in Canada conducted by Professors Matthew Wright from the University of British Columbia and Morris Levy from the University of Southern California in March 2022, this thesis addresses this problem: How do economic interests influence the immigration attitudes of ordinary Canadian citizens? The results suggest that respondents’ perceived economic context shapes their sociotropic job threat from immigration, but not their personal job threat from immigration. In addition, both personal and sociotropic job threat from immigration are influenced by political partisanship, with a stark difference between Liberal and Conservative supporters. Finally, my findings demonstrate that both personal and sociotropic job threat from immigration are associated with Canadians’ preferred level of immigration to Canada. Overall, this thesis validates the role of economic interests in the formation of immigration opinions, and reveals how these economic interests change based on information received by citizens. Economic self-interest, which scholars criticize as irrelevant to immigration attitudes, remains important in shaping public opinion on immigration.

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