The Influence of Social Desirability Pressures on Expressed Immigration Attitudes

Alex Janus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Immigration scholars have found that the highly educated and political liberals are considerably less likely to support restrictionist immigration policies than other groups. I ask whether the influence of social desirability pressures in the survey interview is responsible for this finding.

Methods. An unobtrusive questioning technique known as the list experiment is used to measure Americans' support for immigration restrictionism. The list experiment can easily be embedded in a standard telephone survey and has been used by previous investigators to study racial attitudes.

Results. Restrictionist sentiments are found to be more widespread among the U.S. populace than previous studies have estimated, especially among college graduates and political liberals.

Conclusion. My findings have implications for immigration scholars and social scientists who study other sensitive attitudes and behaviors. The most commonly employed strategies to reduce socially desirable responding may not be enough.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-946
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date25 Oct 2010
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


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