Title: Diversity, Immigration, and Public Opinion in the U.S.
Abstract: What factors animate public opinion towards immigrants? A substantial literature has tested the impact of individual objective traits like education and job market status on immigration attitudes. In addition, researchers have explored the role of subjective factors like immigrants’ perceived impact on society. However, prior quantitative research has generally overlooked a key aspect: natives’ impressions of who immigrants are. Immigrants in the U.S. are increasingly diverse and evidence suggests that natives prefer certain types of immigrants. Yet, survey questions gauging immigration attitudes often refer to “immigrants” as if they were a single, homogenous group, which makes it hard to interpret survey takers’ answers. To fill this gap, we explore heterogeneity in subjective perceptions of immigrants and assess their attitudinal impacts. We systematically uncover these perceptions by using a Latent Class Analysis approach on a new set of survey items we developed. We find the presence of four different immigrant “archetypes” or multidimensional constellations of immigrant traits. These archetypes are shared across regions, social classes, and partisan lines and more powerfully predict immigration attitudes than typical independent variables used in extant research. Last, we discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of our findings.