Bad Samaritans

What with all the right wingers blathering about sending the immigrants back to Africa and such, it’s interesting to see how religion plays a role in solidifying hostile sentiment towards people who came to the United States more recently than the rest of us non-indigenous folk.  In contrast to all the stories you might read about how wonderful and tolerant “evangelicals” are towards immigrants and refugees, in the real world sectarian Christians are the least tolerant towards immigrants and Catholics aren’t far behind (despite their own rather recent immigration).

The above figure presents regression estimates on data from the 2004-2006 General Social Surveys. My “anti-immigrant sentiment” scale includes five items  (1) It is impossible for people who do not share American customs and traditions to become fully American; (2) American television should give preference to American films and programs; (3) Immigrants increase crime rates; (4) Foreigners should not be allowed to buy land in America; (5) Immigrants take jobs away from people who were born in America. Items were coded to run from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree. The scale has an alpha reliability of .73, and the estimates charted above control for immigrant status, race, gender, income, education, Southern residence, rural residence, political party affiliation, and respondent age.

What the chart shows is that sectarian Protestants and Catholics have strong anti-immigrant views, even after controls for a host of other factors which should eliminate these differences. In contrast, people who do not identify with religious groups are even more tolerant of immigrants than the mostly-mainline Protestant comparison category.


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