Strangers in Hostile Lands: First-Time Exposure to Immigrants and Right-Wing Support Following the Refugee Crisis


How does first-time, sustained exposure to ethnic outsiders influence ingroup bias? And how does such exposure impact upon support for right-wing ideas and parties? We focus on Eastern Germany where during the 'refugee crisis' in 2015, refugees were near-exogenously allocation to some municipalities but not to others. Like other regions in Central and Eastern Europe, before 2015 Eastern German municipalities had very low numbers of foreign residents. And, similar to other regions in Europe, since then, Eastern Germany has seen a surge in support for right-wing populist parties with a pronounced anti-immigrant agenda. Can the sudden and unexpected presence of newcomers help to explain this surge? Or has, on the contrary, exposure made individuals more open-minded and willing to support refugees and other ethnic outsiders? We address these questions with a survey conducted among 1,320 individuals in 236 closely matched Eastern German municipalities, half of which received refugees. Our measures include survey responses, voting and behavioral games.

Project Management
Delia Baldassarri (NYU and Bocconi University), Johanna Gereke (Bocconi)
2017 -
ERC Starting Grant