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Seminar on the State and Capitalism Since 1800

The Popularization of Unpopular Ideas: Social Cross-Pressures and Immigration Attitudes in Sweden


February 21, 2020
2:00pm - 3:30pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
February 21, 2020
2:00pm - 3:30pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

** Please note: Those planning to attend events in this series should read the paper that will be posted on the CES website before the seminar.**

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How do ideas that are broadly unpopular in a society spread among citizens? To answer this question the speakers will examine the development of anti-immigrant sentiment over time in Sweden. Although Sweden has been known as one of the most tolerant countries in the world, Swedish attitudes toward immigrants have hardened over the past decade, and a radical right party has gained supporters and legislative seats. The speakers will discuss adolescent Swedes and members of their social networks to establish the factors that prompt individuals to shift their attitudes about immigrants and argue that when a respondent’s friends disagree on the subject of immigrants, he or she becomes less tolerant of immigrants over time (and more likely to support the radical right). This influence is most significant for those whose parents are particularly pro-immigrant. The speakers will discuss the effect of friend discordance to be strongest when one’s friends supply information by suggesting politically relevant websites to the respondent. These new insights align with existing accounts of the powerful role of interpersonal contexts in shaping citizen attitudes. Yet, in contrast with the dominant view that politically diverse social ties can bolster the health of a democratic system, the results suggest a rather bleak narrative in which exposure to cross-pressures weakens key liberal democratic values.

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