Dinesen, Peter Thisted, Robert Klemmensen, and Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard. ‘Attitudes Toward Immigration: The Role of Personal Predispositions: Personality and Immigration Attitudes’. Political Psychology, vol. 37, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 55–72.
In this paper we examine how individual predispositions in terms of the Big Five personality traits affect attitudes toward immigration. This allows us go beyond the assumption that individuals react to situational factors in a uniform way, which underlies established theories of attitudes toward immigration focusing mainly on economic and cultural threat. Adding personality traits to the explanation of attitudes toward immigration allows us to develop a more full understanding of attitude formation beyond situational factors as well as more insight into how individuals react differently based on their personality when confronted with the same situational triggers. We examined the question of how personality influence attitudes toward immigration using a Danish survey experiment and show that personality traits display direct as well as conditional effects on opposition towards immigration. As expected, we find that that Openness and Agreeableness have strong effects on attitudes toward immigration; individuals scoring high on these two traits are significantly more willing to admit immigrants compared to individuals scoring lower on the traits. We also find evidence that individuals react differently to economic threat depending on their score on the trait Conscientiousness; individuals scoring high on Conscientiousness have a greater tendency to oppose low-skilled immigration than individual scoring lower on this trait. This result implies that the influence of situational factors may critically depend on personality traits. More generally, the results suggest that the literature on political attitude formation may benefit from including more differentiated models of man.