Moralizing Immigration

In a democracy, citizens and politicians must be able to discuss their disagreements. A topic that challenges this premise more than almost any other in many contemporary societies is immigration. People on each side of the debate are unwilling to engage in conversation and compromise with those on the other side, and the antipathy is far-reaching: Substantial segments of the population have strong aversions to making friends with, being colleagues with, or letting their kids be taught by someone with whom they disagree on immigration issues. In addition, immigration attitudes are politically potent, and have, in many places and at several elections, been decisive for citizens’ vote choice.

This research project seeks to understand why – and in what ways – immigration has become such a seemingly divisive issue. The project zooms in on a certain type of political language – moralizing political rhetoric – which is expected to have contributed to making existing immigration attitudes more politically consequential and socially divisive. The project’s overall research question is: (How) does political moralization affect political and social divisions over immigration among citizens? To answer this question, the project innovatively combines computational text analysis of political rhetoric over time, place and political parties across Western democracies, original survey experiments, and focus group discussions.

The project is funded by a Sapere Aude Research Leader grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark for the period 2021-2025.

Work Packages

Work Package I

Text Analysis: How do parties and politicians use moralizing rhetoric in political discourse?

Work Package II

Survey Experiments: How does the public react to moralizing political rhetoric on immigration?

Work Package III

Focus Group Discussions: What are the consequences of moralization for public debate?

Who we are

Kristina Bakkær Simonsen

Kristina Bakkær Simonsen

Project Leader, Associate Professor of Political Science

Anna van Vree

Anna van Vree

PhD Student in Political Science

Tobias Widmann

Tobias Widmann

Postdoc in Political Science


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