Has immigration sparked a white backlash?

It’s hardly surprising that immigration restrictionists tend to be Republicans. But Abrajano and Hajnal go beyond that, demonstrating with complex analyses — many of them performed in multiple ways and on data from multiple sources — a variety of more telling correlations. For instance, views on immigration predict voting behavior even after other factors, including party affiliation, ideology, and other policy preferences, have been taken into account. Immigration-skeptical whites are more likely to shift their party identification to the right in the future. When the white population as a whole reports a less favorable view of immigration, it too is more likely to shift toward GOP party identification later.

Geographic patterns are helpful as well: With other variables held constant, whites who live in states with high Hispanic populations are more likely to see immigration as a problem, more likely to identify as conservative or Republican, and more likely to take conservative policy positions. States with higher Hispanic populations spend more on corrections, spend less on education, and are more likely to prefer regressive taxes, at least up to the point that the Hispanic population gets big enough to wield its own political power.

The natural conclusion from all this is that a rising Hispanic population might help explain whites’ shift to the GOP. But social-science claims, especially those relating to Republicans and race, always deserve to be taken with a grain of salt.

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