Polling Experts, Researchers Gather At Texas A&M For Discussion On The Global Rise Of Nativism

By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications

In a time when immigration is dominating the global political conversation, a group of polling experts convened at Texas A&M University to discuss the rise in nativist sentiments around the world that drive it.

The discussion titled “Immigration, Nativism & Changing Politics” held recently at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum  was the capstone event for a day that included presentations of eight academic papers and conversations about nativism among 14 scholars and public opinion polling experts.

The event sponsored by Ipsos Public Affairs and Texas A&M’s European Union Center, the Public Policy Research Institute and the College of Liberal Arts Social Science Consortium featured an international panel of experts in public policy and opinion. The group expressed that around the world, nativism is not only driving debate – it’s driving outcomes.

“The politics of immigration is everywhere,” Cliff Young, president of leading global public opinion research organization Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs and moderator of the panel talk said. “It’s here in the U.S., it’s in other countries. Think of Brexit, the U.S. election in 2016, the French elections, the upcoming Swedish elections, think of all the debate that’s going on right now about DACA and DREAMers and the border wall. Immigration is really driving our political debate and political outcomes. What we’re really trying to do today is to truly understand or start to make sense of it.”

Before the discussion commenced, Young clearly defined nativism at the beginning of the discussion.

“Often we think of it when we first hear it in pejorative or negative terms and that’s not what we mean, Young said. “As I define it, nativism is the policy of or predisposition toward protecting the interests of native-born over foreign-born.”

Each of the five panelists had an opportunity to provide unique perspectives from around the world. International analysts included Martial Foucault, professor of political science at Sciences Po Paris, director of political research center CEVIPOF (CNRS), who discussed France; Chris Garman, Managing director for the Americas at the Eurasia Group, who provided perspectives on South America, and Ray Dutch, director of Centre for Experimental Social Sciences at the University of Oxford, who discussed the United Kingdom. U.S. analysis was provided by Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, and Daron Shaw, professor of political science at the University of Texas at Austin, strategist for George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns.

The panelists said they found that nativism plays a significant role in driving the political discourse in their respective regions, whether it was Donald Trump’s 2016 election win, the rise of Marine Le Pen and National Front (Front national), or the British “Brixit” from the European Union.

Shaw pointed to polling research that showed support for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as the single greatest predictor of support for then-candidate Trump to show how immigration issues can fuel voter participation.

“There actually haven’t been too many analyses that take into account all the disparate factors that we think were at play in the last election, and what we try to do is disentangle some of these things,” Shaw said.

Kondik pointed to another body of research which showed that Trump improved on 2012 U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vote the most in places that went from having almost no immigrants to having a small noticeable amount in the last 10-15 years as a reason why districts flipped from blue to red.

“There’s some evidence that indicates that Trump was able to activate some nativist tendencies in voters and to really change the electorate in a lot of places that were traditionally democratic,” Kondik said.

Giving an international perspective, Marshall discussed French attitudes toward immigration to show how complex immigration issues can be.

“The decision of Germany to welcome one million [Syrian] refugees shook many French people,” Marshall said. On one side you have to welcome this wave of immigrants and one side, all mainstream parties were convinced France did not have the capacity to welcome so many people.”

He then discussed what he called the “French Paradox.”

“The paradox is you have an average of 55-60 percent of French people who are against a more open immigration policy, but at the same time you have 60 percent of French people considering it’s not acceptable to not rescue such refugees,” Marshall said.

The panelists continued to encompass nativist trends across Europe and South America. They also took time to field questions from the audience.

At the conclusion of the conference some of the presented research was revised and submitted for review as a special issue of the scholarly publication Social Science Quarterly.


Media contact: Kirby Goidel, Director of the Public Policy Research Institute, kgoidel@tamu.edu, (979) 458-3231.

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