Regional Variation in Social Norms and Domestic Anti-Immigrant Hostility

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Why are some ingroup members (i.e., natives) more tolerant of, or hostile toward, outgroup others (i.e., immigrants)? A large volume of evidence exists attempting to address this issue. The bulk of findings from observational and experimental research focuses on the dual concept of ‘realistic’ and ‘symbolic’ threat, operationalized in terms of migrant stock or percentage of foreign-born population. According to the literature, a higher stock generally indicates a higher threat, which in turn implies greater xenophobic sentiment. Against this backdrop, the present study shifts the analytic emphasis to a novel explanatory mechanism in the US context: strength of social norms at the state level. Specifically, by drawing on the concept of cultural tightness-looseness, it asks whether American citizens in a geographic region characterized by strong social norms and stringent sanctioning of deviance are, on average, more xenophobic. Results from mixed effects models provide substantial support. Based on nationally representative data collected by the Pew Research Center (2018) during the height of Trump administration, the analysis reveals that cultural tightness has a contextual effect: net of controls, residency in a state with a higher index score is associated with greater levels of anti-immigrant prejudice and stronger preference for anti-immigration policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-271
Number of pages34
JournalCross-Cultural Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Apr 2024

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  • anti-immigrant views
  • contextual effect
  • cultural tightness/looseness
  • outgroup attitude


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