When does religiosity matter for attitudes to immigration? The impact of economic insecurity and religious norms in Europe

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Religious identity and practice has been associated with attitudes to immigration in Europe, but it is not known how this relationship varies between different cultural and economic contexts. Analysing data from seven waves of the European Social Survey (ESS) 2002–2014 we examine the association cross-nationally and over time, in what was a financially unstable period for many European countries and households. We have two main findings. Firstly, it is not religion per se, but rather conformity to national rates of religiosity which is associated with concern about the economic and cultural consequences of immigration. Secondly, the association between religion and anti-immigration is strengthened in contexts of economic uncertainty. These findings suggest that while religion does not predict immigration attitudes uniformly across countries, when religion reflects cultural conformity, it could become an expression national or ethnic group identity in times of economic insecurity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-620
JournalEuropean Societies
Issue number4
Early online date14 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2018


  • economic insecurity, Europe, immigration attitudes, Religion, social norms, unemployment