Understanding the Psychological Underpinnings of Public Beliefs about Immigrants, Refugees, and Immigration in Canada

Public beliefs and attitudes toward immigrants and refugees play an important role in influencing immigration policy as well as the warmth of newcomer welcome. Much of what is known about public attitudes is collected through public opinion polls. These polls tend to assess citizens’ support for immigration and immigrants, focusing on how citizens’ demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, and political party affiliation influence their support. Relatively little research focuses on an empirical, theory-driven analysis of why people support immigration — or not — in terms of underlying personality characteristics and social-psychological motivations. Thus, we set out to empirically investigate how Canadians’ beliefs about migrants changed around the 2015 Canadian federal election — a time when migration was especially politicized. Specifically, we investigated how the beliefs and values espoused by the government in power—termed system-sanctioned ideologies—are related to Canadian citizens’ perceptions of migrants’ warmth and competence.