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Back to Paper Details
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Pandemic Threat and Intergroup-Relations: How negative emotions associated with the threat of Covid-19 shape attitudes towards immigrants

Globalisation
Political Psychology
Political Sociology
Immigration
Quantitative
Public Opinion
Nathalie Hofstetter
Universität Bern
Markus Freitag
Universität Bern
Nathalie Hofstetter
Universität Bern

Abstract

Behavioral immune system theory predicts that attitudes towards immigrants become more hostile during times of increased threat from pathogens, as pandemic threat triggers aversive emotional responses which in turn foster outgroup hostility. We test this notion in the context of the current Covid-19 crisis. Combining both original individual-level survey data of more than 6,000 European respondents during the second Corona wave in winter 2020/2021 and regional data of pandemic threat in a multilevel design, we show that Covid-19 pandemic threat exposure in 105 European regions is indeed associated with more negative attitudes towards immigrants. Moreover, hierarchical path models indicate that Covid-19-induced anger fosters anti-immigrant attitudes, while we find no evidence that disgust as a pivotal avoidance-oriented emotion is crucial. In contrast to conventional wisdom, individuals reacting with fear to the pandemic hold more immigrant-friendly orientations. Taken together, our results indicate that the behavioral immune system (BIS) appears as a compelling obstacle to inclusive orientations. However, our findings challenge the notion that every emotion triggered by the BIS translates the pandemic threat into negative attitudes toward immigrants.