How and why immigration divides us? The role of moralization

In a democracy, citizens and politicians must be able to discuss their disagreements. A topic that challenges this premise more than almost any other in many contemporary societies is immigration. People on each side of the debate are unwilling to engage in conversation and compromise with those on the other side, and the antipathy is far-reaching: Substantial segments of the population have strong aversions to making friends with, being colleagues with, or letting their kids be taught by someone with whom they disagree on immigration issues. In addition, immigration attitudes are politically potent, and have, in many places and at several elections, been decisive for citizens’ vote choice. This research project seeks to understand why – and in what ways – immigration has become such a seemingly divisive issue. The project zooms in on a certain type of political language – moralizing political rhetoric – which is expected to have contributed to making existing immigration attitudes more politically consequential and socially divisive. The project’s overall research question is: (How) does political moralization affect political and social divisions over immigration among citizens? To answer this question, the project innovatively combines computational text analysis of political rhetoric over time, place and political parties across Western democracies, original survey experiments in the US, Canada, Denmark, and Sweden, and focus group discussions in Denmark and Canada. Find the project website here.

Tobias Widmann
Tobias Widmann
Assistant Professor in Political Science

My research interests include political rhetoric, emotions & morality, and computational text analysis.