Spain’s recent economic and demographic history entails risks for social cohesion and the peaceful coexistence of natives and immigrants. From the mid-1990s until 2007, the labor market’s rapid expansion attracted millions of foreign workers, but the subsequent economic crisis destroyed one fifth of all jobs. The slow and incomplete recovery that began in 2013 gave way to yet another unprecedented crisis, triggered by COVID-19.
The theory of group conflict (or group threat), the leading paradigm in this research field, suggests that such a combination of demographic and economic dynamics is prone to trigger perceptions of group competition for scarce resources, especially among underprivileged and/or disgruntled parts of society. Group conflict theory also suggests that such perceptions tend, in turn, to fuel hostility toward immigrants – a hypothesis that is more likely to hold true when an anti-immigrant party obtains parliamentary representation, as is the case with Spain since December 2018.
In Spain, available empirical evidence has not confirmed those predictions: throughout the crisis that began in 2008, attitudes toward immigration in immigrants remained predominantly tolerant. However, there are hardly any recent data on the evolution of public opinion in this domain: a survey which used to be commissioned each year by the Spanish government’s racism watchdog OBERAXE was last run in 2017, and the European Social Survey’s standard questionnaire contains few indicators on immigration attitudes.
The EASIE project generates rigorous and various empirical information on this important subject-matter, combining innovative methodological tools to obtain both qualitative and quantitative primary data. In the Spring of 2019, we conducted focus groups to learn about natives’ contextualized reasoning on immigration. In October 2020, we fielded a nationwide survey (N=2.344) with a view to reliably measuring the social acceptance of anti-immigrant sentiment in Spain and other attitude facets, as well as ascertaining the predictive capacity of a broad range of explanatory factors.
Results will be disseminated by means of presentations in national and international scientific conferences, articles in peer-reviewed journals, and general-distribution publications and events. These include a seminar (Madrid, September 16, 2021) organized in collaboration with OBERAXE and with the participation of the Spanish government’s top immigration policy official, who referred to the EASIE survey as a “crucial tool” for obtaining reliable knowledge on immigration attitudes and improving public policies in this domain.