Numbers, Selectivity, and Rights: The Conditional Nature of Immigration Policy Preferences

Marc Helbling, Rahsaan Maxwell, Richard Traunmüller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Immigration is an extremely divisive political issue in Western Europe and North America. We examine whether immigration policy preferences are more nuanced than commonly understood. Too often, analyses of immigration policy preferences only consider the number of people allowed into the country. Yet, immigration policy must also address which people are allowed into the country and what rights they can have. We present results from a series of original surveys conducted in Germany between April 2020 and August 2022. We find preferences about policies governing immigration flows are conditional on policies governing entrance criteria and rights eligibility. Respondents who oppose immigration in general are willing to compromise and allow more immigration if entrance criteria become more selective. Respondents who support immigration are willing to compromise and accept less immigration if rights become more generous. Our findings have implications for understanding divides over immigration as well as policy debates more generally.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)254-286
    Number of pages33
    JournalComparative Political Studies
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 2024


    • European politics
    • elections, public opinion, and voting behavior
    • experimental research
    • migration

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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