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Europe has become a major destination for international migrants. By 2015, 34.3 million people living in an EU member state were born outside of the EU-28, and an additional 18.5 million persons had been born in another EU country than the one currently residing in. In this context of a growing foreign-born population, which is now at about 10 per cent of the total European population, xenophobic attitudes against immigrants are generally perceived as having increased over the past decade across Europe. This study explores the extent to which anti-immigrant hostility is spatially dependent and has spread geographically across European regions of that period. Based on data from seven rounds (2002-2014) of the European Social Survey (ESS), analyzed at sub-national (NUTS 2 regions) levels, we identify a significant spatial connectivity of anti-immigrant attitudes by showing that spatially more proximate European regions share similar in trends in anti-immigrant sentiments than we observe between more distant regions. The identification of a spatially dependent diffusion and clustering process of anti-immigrant attitudes has significant bearing for the understanding of the rise and fall of populist movements across Europe and changing electoral support for xenophobic parties across European regions over time.



Working paper

Publication Date





1 - 19


Anti-immigrant attitudes, Social Impact Theory, Migration, EU,