The social desirability of (in)tolerance toward Muslim immigrants in the United States: results from a population-level list experiment

Mathew J. Creighton, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Amaney Jamal, Princeton University

Do Muslim immigrants face a great social barrier to their acquisition of citizenship in the United States? To assess the degree to which Muslim immigrants are targeted, we compare the results to opposition to Christian immigrants. By employing a randomized, experimental design, we move beyond standard direct estimates, which do not account for the social pressure to appear tolerant. We show that opposition to citizenship for Muslim immigrants is not more widely held, but is more openly expressed. Therefore, in the public sphere, Muslim immigrants are indeed targeted. However, there is no significant difference in the underlying, true level of opposition. This stems from significant social pressure to publically appear tolerant toward Christian immigrants. In addition, some determinants of opposition (e.g. political ideology, income and ethnicity) only predict overt expression of opposition, not the true underlying level of opposition. We conclude that although the social barrier is no greater for Muslim immigrants, they are more likely to experience it.

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Presented in Session 83: International migrants in the United States