University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


Western European politics have been marked over the last couple of decades by a fierce debate about the place of Europe’s increasingly large immigrant population in society. Across the continent, far-right parties campaigning on nationalistic platforms opposing immigration have seen great electoral success. The debate is undoubtedly becoming more heated as more immigrants pour into the area, and these anti-immigrant parties seem to have established themselves in the political arena. Immigration does not appear to be slowing down at any point in the near future, so what is going to happen to these far-right parties as we move into the future? My research sought to answer this question and offer a more optimistic outlook on the situation. The most popular opinions view the relationship between immigrant population size and anti-immigrant electoral support as a simple positive linear correlation, meaning that there is little hope that the existing enmity will do anything but increase. I hoped to show that the relationship is, in fact, curvilinear. In the case of these immigrants, a curvilinear relationship would indicate strong xenophobic voting until the immigrant population becomes so large that the non-immigrants become more accustomed to the presence of those that they formerly viewed as “outsiders.” What I discovered was that an alternative hypothesis provided the best description. As the immigrant population increased, the support for the far right actually decreased. This “contact hypothesis” shows that the increased population leads to increased interaction with immigrants and the weakening of stereotypes perpetuated by the extreme right.